The Baltimore Orioles just finished a stretch of 30 games in 31 days and had a scheduled off day Monday before closing out their longest homestand of the year with a three-game series against division rival Boston.
The team has only four more scheduled off days, which makes them coveted dates on the calendar at this point in the season. With Baltimore (62-53) very much in contention for a wild-card berth, and the opponents likely becoming more difficult, every little break is cherished.
"Everybody's going to hit a wall with that at some point," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "It's almost inhumane, in a lot of ways, what we ask Major League Baseball players to do for 30 straight days, 10 hours a day. I have a real empathy for them, because I see what it takes to play the game at the level they're trying to play it at."
The Orioles are 17-13 since the All-Star break, when their run of consecutive games began July 13 at home against Detroit. Refreshed from a day off, the Orioles are back at it tonight at Camden Yards against the Red Sox (57-59).
Baltimore has won seven of nine games, but knowing an off-day was fast approaching seemed to please Showalter and his players Sunday afternoon, the day after a rain-delayed Saturday night game ended after 1 in the morning.
Showalter rested catcher Matt Wieters on Sunday against Kansas City and started Adam Jones at designated hitter for the first time in his career (Jones played center field in the ninth inning before the Orioles beat the Royals 5-3).
Wieters has caught in 93 games this season; Jones has 114 starts in center and has played in all 115 games this season.
"Usually I try to give guys that go to the All-Star Game another day, give them their true day off," Showalter said.
But the days off are for everybody, a chance, albeit brief, to recharge and refocus for the next stretch.
Showalter said taking a mental break is almost as important.
"Physically, you kind of get into overdrive," he said. "But it's the mental part of it that gets challenging at this time of year. There's such a lure to give yourself an emotional and mental day off, and you just can't do it."
Lately, the Orioles haven't shown signs of fatigue despite their consecutive games streak. Their offense got a boost in the form of 20-year-old Manny Machado, who came up from Class AA Bowie last week and created a buzz for himself.
Machado has a double, a triple, three home runs, and seven RBIs in four games, and he earned a share of the AL player of the week honors for his performance.
Meanwhile, Baltimore's bullpen continues to shine. The relievers' combined ERA of 2.99 is second lowest in the league - Oakland leads the AL at 2.96 - and five pitchers hold ERAs lower than 2.58.
The pitching success likely needs to continue by the looks of the upcoming schedule.
A six-game road trip takes the Orioles to Detroit and Texas, the AL West leaders. Chicago, which leads the AL Central, comes to town for four games Aug. 27-30.
Then they face the Al East-leading Yankees seven times in 10 days before a three-game series with Tampa Bay, which currently shares the wild-card lead with Baltimore.
A tough stretch based on the standings, but one the Orioles seem ready to endure.
"It's part of the season. It's part of baseball," said right fielder Nick Markakis. "It's what you prepare for early on in spring training and the offseason. The dog days of August are here. You've just got to battle, battle, battle. We've been doing a good job so far. We've got to take it game-by-game, pitch-by-pitch, inning-by-inning."