By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
8:30 AM EDT, September 15, 2013
The math doesn’t look good for the Orioles. As they wake up this morning, they are 3 1/2 games out of the final American League wild card spot with 14 games remaining.
You can’t say that the other wild-card contenders haven’t tried to help the Orioles out. After the Tampa Bay Rays went through a skid, now it’s the Texas Rangers who have fallen back into the pack. Texas and Tampa Bay currently hold the two wild card spots with identical 81-66 records. A three-game winning streak by the Cleveland Indians has them just 1 1/2 games back. The New York Yankees are three games back and the Kansas City Royals are tied with the Orioles, 3 1/2 back.
The Orioles should undoubtedly be closer. I don’t think you’d get an argument on that statement from the players themselves. Over the past month -- and even dating back to the beginning of the second half -- the Orioles have wasted too many opportunities.
I honestly thought Friday night’s 5-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays -- in which the Orioles rallied from an early deficit before Chris Davis hit his 50th homer of the season to give the Orioles the lead -- would spark the club and get them on the way to that winning streak so desperately needed.
It was one of those special wins. As a kid, it was one of those games I would make sure I picked up a copy of The Baltimore Sun as a keepsake. And now here I was writing the game story about Davis tying the franchise single-season home run record. It was pretty cool to have that opportunity.
But that momentum sure didn’t last. I could tell on my Twitter feed, where frustrated Orioles fans called it a season after Saturday's loss.
It’s amazing how quickly they forget the depths of losing that consumed this club for 14 years. But I get it. This city has a passionate fan base. And they’ve set a bar that now anything less than a playoff berth is an immense disappointment. Those expectations are fair, and they’re on par with everyone inside the Orioles clubhouse.
And I know it’s frustrating for fans to watch a familiar script of stranding baserunners over and over. I’ve had my fair share of conversations with Orioles manager Buck Showalter and his players about it, both on and off the record, and they feel the frustration, too.
This offense’s aggression is what made it good in the first half of the season, so you don’t want to take that mentality away when the bats start to slump. Showalter talks all the time about how you have to hit to take, not take to hit. There's certainly a middle ground there somewhere, but the Orioles obviously haven't found it, because watching the approach on some of the team’s first-pitch outs is head-scratching.
Now they’ve really put themselves in a hole.
With stops in Boston and Tampa Bay, this road trip doesn’t get any easier. And it will take a form of Oriole Magic we haven’t seen in a while to get Baltimore back in the playoffs.
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