Advertisement

Orioles postseason chances dim as they begin three-game series against Yankees

Orioles postseason chances dim as they begin three-game series against Yankees
Jimmy Paredes reacts after striking out during the fourth inning. (Darren Calabrese / Associated Press)

Following Sunday afternoon's 10-4 loss in Toronto, I asked Orioles center fielder Adam Jones whether he could see the window of opportunity closing for this team.

"It's not about the window," Jones said. "It's about the reality."

Advertisement

The feel-good vibes from the Orioles' back-to-back wins Wednesday and Friday are long gone. The Orioles are still heading in the wrong direction fast.

They will open their three-game series at Yankee Stadium Monday losers of 14 of their past 17 games.

They are still 6 ½ games back of the Texas Rangers for the second American League wild-card spot, but there are now six teams between them and the Rangers.

That's not a good combination.

After Sunday's loss, two teams leapfrogged the Orioles in the wild-card standings. The Seattle Mariners won their fifth straight to move within six games of the wild card, and the Chicago White Sox won their fourth straight to also come within six.

In fact, as this point in the season, these Orioles are closer to the American League East cellar than they are to the wild card. They head into play Monday just one game up on the last-place Boston Red Sox, who have won three straight heading into their home series against Toronto.

At 65-71, the Orioles have the fourth-worst record in the American League.

Who would have thought this would have happened after the Orioles swept that four-game series against Oakland at home less than three weekends ago?

Everybody inside the Orioles clubhouse is frustrated with their current skid. Orioles manager Buck Showalter has handled their slide with calm, and while that might be frustrating for those who aren't close to this team, it's not when you understand that Showalter is always on an even keel. Even when his team is playing great, he doesn't indulge the hype, so when they're struggling, it's not all fire and brimstone.

Defensive alignment hurts

Showalter played a peculiar outfield alignment on Sunday, playing both corner outfielders toward the gaps, leaving the lines unprotected.

It burned the Orioles in the first inning when Ben Revere scored from first on Josh Donaldson's double down the left-field line. Nolan Reimold had to chase the ball into the corner and Revere scored easily.

Revere is a speedy player and he might have scored anyway, but playing that far off the line made it almost automatic.

The Orioles had been getting burned on balls in the gap earlier in the series, and the Rogers Centre outfield is vast.

Advertisement

"Most of the time when they pull the ball it's down the line or in the seats," Showalter explained. "So why defend the ball you can't catch anyway? We cut off probably about 10 outs this year by the balls they do hit."

Why did Tillman pitch?

After Chris Tillman struggled again against the Blue Jays Sunday there was a lot of Twitter buzz about why the Orioles let him pitch against Toronto when they pushed back left-hander Wei-Yin Chen to Monday in part to avoid the Blue Jays.

Toronto hits left-handed pitching well, but they've also bashed Tillman around in five meetings this season. But it likely has more to do with laying out the matchups for the Yankees series. Chen has had success against the Yankees this season, pitching to a 2.79 ERA in three starts against the Yankees.

Tillman allowed four runs on 10 hits over 5 2/3 innings in his only meeting with New York this season, and his career numbers at Yankee Stadium (3-4, 7.30 ERA in eight career starts) aren't great either.

Rotation takes some blame

As much as the Orioles offense has taken the heat for their recent slide, the Orioles rotation owns a 4.57 ERA this season, which is 13th among the 15 AL teams, trailing only the Boston Red Sox (4.61) and Detroit Tigers (4.72).

Regardless how this season ends, the next month will be important in shaping next year's rotation. The Orioles likely will lose Chen, their most dependable starter, in free agency. Tillman's season ERA is now 5.15, Miguel Gonzalez is on the disabled list after struggling through the second half, Ubaldo Jimenez has also scuffled since the break and Kevin Gausman is inconsistent.

The Orioles will continue to take a look at Mike Wright, and Tyler Wilson when he's physically ready, to see where they might fit in next year. It will be important for top pitching prospects Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey to return healthy next year.

But overall, there are a lot of rotation questions to be answered. Last year's rotation was a key to getting to the ALCS, and this year's starter struggles could end up being a big reason why the Orioles don't return to the playoff this season.

Advertisement
Advertisement