xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

An Orioles playoff berth would be an ‘incredible achievement.’ They still need to prove it’s possible.

For a club that lets the numbers dictate so much of what they do on and off the field, the math for the Orioles the rest of the way is simple if they want to make what would be baseball’s most surprising playoff appearance in years: take this four-game series against the Yankees, don’t fall back below .500 and hope New York never recovers.

With a disappointing loss to the New York Mets on Wednesday night bringing the Orioles to 20-22 and leaving them 1½ games behind the Yankees for the last of the eight American League playoff spots, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde seems to be trying to temper expectations while acknowledging that playing to the club’s full potential won’t just be for pride, but for a possible postseason berth.

Advertisement

“I’d be disappointed if we don’t play well the rest of the year, and I think whatever happens, happens,” Hyde said. “Obviously I would love for our team to continue to experience these games that matter the last two weeks. I think we’re going to gain a lot, these guys who haven’t been in this situation. We don’t have many in that room who have been in a pennant race. I think that continuing to play games that matter is really beneficial for our guys.”

Whether that experience comes with wins or losses in the last 18 games likely won’t change the trajectory of the team’s long-term rebuilding project. It also means they’re just a few pieces away from contending year-in and year-out. Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias' promised “elite-talent pipeline” could eventually provide that.

Advertisement

What the Orioles have is a team that’s playing around .500 baseball, which is well above what many rightfully expected but certainly isn’t unreasonable given how individuals have performed.

Their offense features so many who have improved, from catchers Pedro Severino and Chance Sisco and first baseman Renato Núñez to third baseman Rio Ruiz. Shortstop José Iglesias might be the best value free-agent signing of the offseason. Their Bowie camp has rejuvenated outfielders Cedric Mullins and DJ Stewart, and a trio of midseason call-ups in Ryan Mountcastle, Keegan Akin and Dean Kremer are doing everything they can to show they belong.

“I don’t think our numbers lie,” Hyde said. “I think we’re having some pretty good offensive years, and I think our guys, we have a lot of guys that have been swinging the bat well. I think our bullpen has improved from last year dramatically. I think we’ve gotten really good starting pitching, especially the last couple weeks. Add that up, that’s a pretty good club.”

What the Orioles are dealing with now, though, is a confluence of circumstances that means they can’t be written off yet, even though every loss is a chute back down to reality on a game board that’s lacking big ladders.

The American League’s eight playoff teams will include the top two teams in each division, and then the two best teams of the remaining nine clubs. The Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins playing to winning percentages at or above .600 means one of those two wild-card spots will likely go to that division’s third-place finisher.

In addition to the Orioles within reach of the other wild-card spot, the Seattle Mariners and Detroit Tigers have hung around as the Yankees and Houston Astros all fall toward .500. Most projection systems don’t give the Orioles much of a chance. FanGraphs has the three Central teams, plus the Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, Oakland Athletics, Astros and Yankees all with over 90% probability of making the playoffs.

The Orioles' postseason odds are ninth-best at 9.1% after Wednesday’s loss, and with series left against the Yankees, Atlanta Braves, Rays and Blue Jays, they’re expected to go 7-11 the rest of the season.

At Baseball Prospectus, the Orioles' playoff odds were at 9.7% entering Wednesday.

Only winning games on a nightly basis can truly change that equation. Doing so against the Yankees, when rookies Akin and Kremer will be tested by having to face the same lineup in two straight starts, is where they’ll aim to start that.

Hyde said in some ways he can see the finish line, which last month he said would be his own personal criteria for thinking about making the playoffs. In other ways, it’s still so far away.

“Yes in that we’re less than three weeks away, but I still know we have a long way to go also,” he said. “We still have a lot of games to be played. We’re still playing really good teams. I obviously would love to play well and have these guys experience a postseason, what that feels like. That would be an incredible, incredible achievement for the guys in our clubhouse.”

ORIOLES@YANKEES

Advertisement

Thursday, 7:05 p.m.

TV: MASN2

Radio: 105.7 FM

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement