The weird thing about the Baltimore Orioles is that, despite how detestable it seems their pitching is, or how silent their bats can be during several game stretches, there is a reason they are 66-51 this year, sitting in first place of the AL East, and quietly making statements time and time again that this is their division to win. All of a sudden, it’s August 16 and the O’s have spent the majority of their season in first place of the only division in baseball that has four teams above .500.
So, exactly how good do the Orioles have to be from here on out in order to solidify their chances for the post-season? On the surface, one would have to think that they need to play lights out baseball for the next month and a half. And while that would certainly help matters, it may not have to be that difficult. Because Baltimore has kept themselves in contention all year, they have positioned themselves to be able to take advantage of some fortuitous scheduling.
Of the four teams contending to be AL East champion, a few factors remain that could easily work out in the Orioles’ favor. With a record of 39-17 at home this year, the O’s will most certainly benefit from the fact that 25 of their last 45 games are at Camden Yards, including a huge eleven game stretch from 9/15 through 9/25. Neither the Blue Jays, Red Sox, or Yankees have that advantage- in fact, all three of those teams have more road games left to play than they do games at home. Of those three. Boston has the best home record, but unfortunately for them only have 15 games at Fenway remaining on their schedule.
All three teams- Toronto, Boston, and New York- have a west coast swing still left on their schedule. Combining the travel and the time difference is a critical detriment for teams that fly out west for extended time, and because the Orioles have already made their road trips across country, it leaves them with the advantage of less travel.
Unfortunately, it’s not all good news for the Orioles. They have more remaining games against teams with winning records than any of their AL East opponents (35). Besides nine games against Tampa Bay and a series against Arizona, the O’s have drawn the short stick when it comes to facing better teams later in the season. Boston sees a schedule that pits them against +.500 teams 25 times, Toronto 26 times, and the Yankees 31 times.
When the end of the season does roll around, and almost for certain these four teams will be playing for first place, the schedulers took it upon themselves to revel in the idea of nail-biting, down-to-the-wire competition. The Red Sox end their season hosting the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park for a two game set while the Orioles travel to New York to face the Yankees for three games. While there is no counting out any of these teams, it certainly seems as if letting Boston and Toronto beat each other up may put destiny in the O’s own hands.
In the end, it is simple. In order to win the AL East, you need to win games. Take one look at the standings and you will see that all four of these teams have shown how capable they are of doing that. Of the four teams still in contention, Baltimore, Boston, and New York have over 30 games remaining against AL East opponents, a statistic that forewarns of the importance of getting wins. To keep consistent with their current winning percentage (.564), Baltimore needs to win 25 of the remaining 45 games on the schedule. If that were the case, they would finish with a record of 91-71, a mark that should almost be a shoe-in for a playoff spot. However, most fans would probably like to see a little more finality and impact as the season rolls toward the end, and a finish more along the lines of 30 wins would be much more comfortable for everyone.