By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
7:16 AM EDT, September 18, 2013
Despite one of their biggest wins of the year, the Orioles technically didn’t gain any ground in the American League wild-card race.
With the Texas Rangers’ 7-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, those two teams are now tied for the two AL wild-card spots. Now, however, the top four contenders in the wild-card race are bunched closer.
The Rays, Rangers, Cleveland Indians (1/2 game back) and Orioles are all separated by a total of two games. The New York Yankees' loss dropped them 3 1/2 games back, tied with the Kansas City Royals.
I hate to keep comparing this year’s team to last year’s team -- and I know the players do, too -- but last night’s 3-2 win over the Boston Red Sox was much like some of those one-run wins of 2012.
The Orioles struggled again with runners in scoring position. When they had runners at second and third with no outs in the eighth inning, Chris Davis and Adam Jones were unable to get a ball out of the infield. They committed three errors, and starter Scott Feldman lasted five innings despite walking six batters.
But somehow they still won.
Danny Valencia -- imagine how bad this offense would be without him the past month -- broke through with a big hit to leadoff the ninth inning, a triple over Shane Victorino's head in center field. Matt Wieters was able to knock in the run with a sacrifice fly.
The Orioles bullpen provided four scoreless innings after Feldman left the game, including high-pressure performances from rookies Kevin Gausman and T.J. McFarland.
When those kind of moves don’t work, Orioles manager Buck Showalter takes the heat -- he has before this season -- but when they work out, they seem brilliant.
But that goes to show Showalter’s unwavering faith in this club.
“These are the best players in the world,” Showalter said. “Chris Davis hits a ball firm right at somebody. What are you going to do? It's not just that situation. There were some pitches that Scotty made early in the game to get out of some things. It's Gausman, it's McFarland. One guy who was at LSU last year and another guy who was a Rule 5 pick. We don't hang things around one situation and one person. You cannot live in that world and compete up here consistently and turn the page.”
All those good vibes will fall on deaf ears if the Orioles lose the next two games in Boston.
And it's truly been a roller coaster for this club over the past three weeks. They’ve gone from one game back in the wild-card race to 4 1/2 back. They’re dead one day, brought back from the dead the next.
Bottom line is they still need wins in Boston. As Showalter says, momentum is only as strong as the next day’s starter -- so they need a good performance from left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, who allowed eight earned runs in his last start at Fenway Park last month.
But get a win Wednesday and you feel good about Chris Tillman on the mound Thursday. Tillman has a 1.93 ERA in four starts at Fenway Park.
And to make things better for them, Darren O'Day could be on a plane to Boston on Wednesday morning.
That's the momentum the Orioles must have heading to Tampa Bay.
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