Stoetzer: One wild week to go for Orioles

Stoetzer: One wild week to go for Orioles
Orioles' Zach Britton celebrates with teammate Caleb Joseph after the Orioles defeated the Diamondbacks 2-1 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 25, 2016 in Baltimore. (Matt Hazlett / Getty Images)

One more week.

That's all that remains in baseball's regular season. The Orioles have six games to go, their playoff fate still undecided.


Just try figuring these guys out.

Sunday's 2-1 win over Arizona capped an 11-game homestand, and a three-game sweep against the hapless Diamondbacks. After losing four straight to Boston, losing their grip on the second wild-card spot, Baltimore bounced back and finished 5-6 on the final home stretch.

The Orioles are in the No. 2 spot heading into the final week, with three games in Toronto and three in New York after an off day Monday. Detroit (1.5 games behind), Seattle (2.5), and Houston (3) are in the mix for that final slot.

Any guess on how things shake out is acceptable at this point.

Woeful performances by Orioles pitchers in important games. Camden Yards attendance numbers questioned by players and media members alike. Two games below .500 since the start of July, which spoiled their 47-31 record over the first three months.

And yet, after the last three games, hope remains.

When you've got a homer-happy lineup, and perhaps the best bullpen in the majors, anything is possible. Even with a trip to Rogers Centre looming, where the Orioles are 2-5 this year, to face the wild-card leading Blue Jays.

"We've been playing meaningful games in September for a while now, so it's not anything new to us," said Orioles closer Zach Britton, who is 46-for-46 in saves after he preserved Sunday's victory.

The final out was a fly ball to right field. Business-like, the Orioles streamed from the dugout for the usual atta-boys. Manager Buck Showalter met them near the dugout railing for hand shakes, while many of the remaining 31,229 stood and applauded.

There wasn't much else in the way of pomp. The players didn't stay on the field, like they did in the 2012 home finale, to watch the scoreboard. They didn't acknowledge the fans except for a few one-on-one glances and waves.

A lack of class? Nope, these guys seem to believe they'll be back come October.

"We're kind of just 'tunnel vision' on that nine innings, and then see where we are when the smoke clears," Showalter said before Sunday's game. "There's something to be gained by winning every game we play. There's something to be lost by every game we lose. So, instead of looking at all the things we should've, would've, could've done to make it a little bit easier, I look at all the things that our guys have done to have this opportunity.

"So, I'm proud of them that it's September 25th and we're continuing to play important games in Baltimore."

Seeing the likes of Yovani Gallardo, Wade Miley, and a tiring Dylan Bundy starting those important games can do certain things to people. Antacid tablets are downed. Bottles of booze might be emptied. And that's during the pre-game show.


But, in case some fans were wondering, those three pitched well and helped the Orioles earn a three-game sweep.

Perhaps Friday's game carries more meaning than others, with Baltimore down 2-0 in the eighth inning before rallying to tie it and eventually win in the 12th.

Two days later, the Orioles enjoyed their 50th home win of 2016.

Their 35-40 road record will be tested in this final week of the regular season. A 4-2 trip should get them into the playoffs, but 3-3 could leave things up in the air.

Of course, a few days ago things seemed bleaker. Funny how baseball goes, especially with one week to go and a handful of teams vying for a playoff berth.

Let the wildness begin.