Orioles Clinch Playoff-Berth with Sweep of Red Sox
After yesterday’s 6-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox , the Baltimore Orioles (92-67) ensured themselves of at least a Wild Card-berth in the playoffs for the first time since the wire-to-wire 1997 season.
Although the Yankees rallied to come from behind and overtake the Blue Jays as both teams reached the 92 nd win plateau, the fact that the Orioles clinched at least a Wild Card-berth is exhilarating and one of the biggest surprises in all of baseball.
The Birds and Bombers sit tied atop the AL East with three games left to play. The Birds will finish their season in St. Petersburg against the Rays (88-71), who have been eliminated from the East, and can only advance to the playoffs by winning the second Wild Card spot.
The Yankees return home and will host the Red Sox for their remaining three games.
With the Orioles sweep of Boston this past weekend, the Birds finished with an impressive 13-5 record against the struggle club, which is the best record against the BoSox since 1970 when they went 13-5 as well.
Not to mention, with that loss, the Red Sox have now lost 90 games on the year, which is the first time that has happened since 1966.
Nate McLouth jump started the game for the Birds after he led off the bottom of the 1 st inning with a home run. But, that was just the beginning.
The Birds went on to score two more runs after a bases loaded double play-ball by Matt Wieters and an RBI single from veteran Jim Thome . After one inning, the Birds were already up 3-0 and did not look back.
J.J. Hardy smashed his 22 nd home run of the year, and although he will not finish with 30 like he did in his first year with the Birds, the shortstop has contributed with more than just his bat.
The hot-fielding Hardy continues to lead the majors with a .992 fielding percentage by a shortstop (he’s only committed six errors all year), and has made a case for himself for a Gold Glove award this season. Plus, with the Birds making the playoffs, that gives him and even better chance at the honor.
Right-fielder Chris Davis continued to swing a hot bat as he launched his 31 st home run of the year, his fourth home run in his past three games. That’s the type of production the Rangers were hoping for before they dealt him last year.
Although Joe Saunders was touched up for a couple of home runs, he tossed 7.1 strong innings, allowed three earned runs on eight base hits, including five strike outs and no walks. In his last start of the regular season, he evened his mark with the Birds at 3-3, and 9-13 overall on the year.
After they picked up the victory on Sunday afternoon, the Birds collectively watched the Rangers defeat the Angels in the second game of their doubleheader as that loss ensured a Wild Card-berth for the Birds.
Series Versus Tampa Bay
Tonight, the Birds head to Tampa to begin the final series of the regular season and they will not go down without a fight as they are still battling for the Wild Card spot.
Currently, the Athletics sit a game behind both the Yankees and Birds as both teams sit atop the East and Wild Card. The Angels and Rays sit three games behind the A’s (four behind the O’s and Yanks). So, essentially, the Rays would have to sweep the Orioles to have a shot at making the playoffs.
Tonight, the Orioles will send one of their strongest pitchers to the hill in search of his 13 th win of the season. The southpaw Wei-Yin Chen (12-10, 4.11 ERA) has struggled in his last seven outings as he is 1-3 and has allowed 25 earned runs over his last 40 innings (5.63 ERA).
In the month of September, Chen’s ERA sits at 5.90 and has increased steadily each month as of late. In July, he pitched to a 3.44 ERA, and in August, his ERA was 4.40 for the month.
Regardless, Chen has been dominant throughout most of the season, and took the helm of the rotation after Hammel landed on the DL the first time in July.
The 27-year-old has faced the Rays four times in his first season with the Birds. He sports a 1-2 record with a respectable 3.38 ERA.
The last time he faced the Rays on September 13 th, he pitched well as he tossed 7.1 innings and allowed just two earned runs. However, he did not figure in the decision as the Birds eventually won the game 3-2 in extra innings.
The Rays will counter with RHP Alex Cobb (10-9, 4.18 ERA), who has been dominant over his last six outings (3-1, 2.72 ERA), including one start against the Orioles.
In that outing versus the Birds, he tossed 4.2 innings and allowed two earned runs on seven base hits, including two walks and seven strike outs, but did not factor in the decision.
That was the only time that the 25-year-old has faced the Birds, so tonight should be an interesting match-up.
McLouth and Davis have been on fire as of late, and it seems like whenever the Orioles need a big hit, someone comes through. Even without star right-fielder Nick Markakis , the Birds continue to keep pace with the Yankees in the East.
Yes, it’s nice for the Orioles to clinch a Wild Card-berth, but they are in search of the AL East title. If Baltimore wins the Wild Card, they would have to play the best team in the AL. Currently, the Rangers have the best record in the AL (93-66), just a game in front of the O’s and Yankees.
Unfortunately, the Birds lost both series against the Rangers this season and went 2-5 in the seven contests. If the Orioles are able to overtake the Yanks for first place in the East, then they would have the privilege of facing the AL Central winners, who are the Tigers currently.
Baltimore would have a better shot at advancing if they face the Tigers, who they split six games with in the regular season.
But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. They need to focus on one game at a time. The game starts at 7pm and, as stated in previous games, this is a must-win for the Orioles.
By: Alex Van Rees
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