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‘One of the biggest surprises to start the year’: What they’re saying about the Orioles’ 7-7 start

During a normal 162-game Major League Baseball season, two-and-a-half weeks of results don’t mean much. Teams get hot and cold, hitters go in and out of slumps and the cream eventually rises to the top at the end of September.

But because of the coronavirus pandemic, 15 games is one-quarter of the way through a shortened 60-game season. The Orioles, given a 1.3% chance to make the playoffs at FanGraphs before Opening Day, now have an 8.3% chance to play October baseball after going 7-7 through their first 14 games, including back-to-back wins over the defending champion Washington Nationals.

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Here’s what experts and analysts around the league are saying about the Orioles’ surprisingly hot start:

MLB.com (Orioles listed at No. 22 in power rankings): “How about this — teams that have regularly ended up at the bottom of our rankings the past few years are starting to climb upward. The Tigers, Marlins, Padres and Orioles — all of whom are at various stages of rebuilding processes — are winning ballgames in the early going. In a short season with expanded playoffs, October baseball may be on the table for more teams than we think.”

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The Athletic (No. 10): “Enjoy it while it lasts, Baltimore. The Orioles will presumably be back to the bottom of these rankings before long, but for now, they’re at .500, right in the middle of the playoff picture, and but for a tarp malfunction on Sunday they might have completed a sweep against the Nationals.”

CBS Sports (No. 19): “José Iglesias coming out over here like prime Tony Gwynn has been something.”

ESPN (No. 26): “Yes, that’s José Iglesias who will become the first batter since Ted Williams to hit .400! OK, as I write this on Saturday night, his average has already dropped from .455 on Friday to .405 ... but even if a 60-game .400 season is obviously not the same thing as a full season, it would be super fun if somebody can make a run at it.”

Bleacher Report (No. 16): “The Orioles rebounded from a four-game sweep at the hands of the Marlins to win a pair of games against the Nationals, maintaining a .500 record in the process. Slugger Renato Núñez hit three more home runs last week, and he now has a .973 OPS with five home runs and 11 RBI on the year.”

The Score (No. 25): “Baltimore is one of the biggest surprises to start the year, already claiming series wins against the Red Sox, Rays, and Nationals. Renato Núñez has been a force with five home runs, while right-hander Alex Cobb has impressed with a 2.51 ERA through three starts.”

Sports Illustrated (No. 26): “Does moving out of the cellar of SI’s power rankings qualify as a pleasant surprise? Last weekend’s sweep of the Rays certainly counts, as does Hanser Alberto’s hot start. The 27-year-old still rarely walks (1.9% walk rate in 53 plate appearances), but he’s improved his plate discipline, swinging less often at pitches out of the zone and more often at strikes than he did a season ago.”

USA Today (No. 20): “Hanser Alberto and José Iglesias raking to start the season.”

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