I think winning two out of three in New York at the beginning of September to pull within two games of the first place Yankees made the city take notice. Two days later, the Baltimore Orioles are in a tie for first place. For most of this quizzical 2012 Orioles season, a lot fans in Baltimore have sat back, watched and waited for collapse with which we have all become too familiar. For fourteen seasons, the month of September at Camden Yards has been irrelevant. Losing seasons. Each and every one of them.
A 21-8 stretch has morphed this group of over-achievers into a legitimate threat to win a 27-game sprint for the American League East Championship. I watch in disbelief. I struggle to explain it. I struggle, still, to buy in wholly.
How can a team win so many extra-inning games in a row? Win so many one-run games in a row? Win without a true first baseman? Win when plugging a rookie in at third base in July? Win with its most dependable starter on the shelf? Win with a left field of Whos?? Win when a Quintanilla has had more impact than a Thome? It really defies all logic.
Two instances in the past seem to be relevant here in the Orioles history. The Why Not season of 1989 is the most obvious. Losers of 21 straight the season before came within a series win in Toronto of claiming the East title. Winning the World Series in 1966 against the venerable Dodgers may be another. Imagine beating Drysdale twice and Koufax in four games over 5 days, never trailing in the series and finishing with 33 straight scoreless innings pitched. At that point, the Orioles had never played a post-season game. How could they beat LA, which had won the World Series three of the last seven years, in four straight games?
In 2012, a lot of work remains. The playoff race is a crowded one with teams full of seasoned playoff veterans. Seven other teams can all claim to be more prepared than the Orioles on paper. But after 135 games, those teams haven’t proven it.
So what happens in these 27 games remaining? I can’t see the O’s staying this hot. But I can’t see Oakland and Tampa keeping it up either. Could Detroit or the Angels wake up in time to snag playoff spots? Can the Yankees collapse!??! Wouldn’t that be a shame?
At this point, it’s just nice to care and not talk about Boston. This team has moxy. It has Showalter pushing all the right buttons. It’s finally got the right uniform (though i could do without the Friday night ensemble). Could they possibly do the unthinkable of just 6 months ago? They just might.