Home stretch should give O’s boost in wild chase
Orioles play 16 of next 19 games at Camden Yards to start run against contenders
SEATTLE – Though the Orioles were disappointed in the results of their justcompleted West Coast trip, they returned to Baltimore still very much in the thick of the wild-card race.
Little has sorted itself out since the Orioles traveled across the country. They left home 21⁄ games out of the American League’s second wild-card spot and despite a 4-6 road trip, they return just three games out.
Now they will begin a key stretch of their schedule that could end up defining their season, though initially they will have the benefit of playing16 of their next19 games at Camden Yards.
“We’re headed back to Baltimore,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said after the 105.7 FM
AL wild-card standings
Team W-L Pct. GB Yankees 65-55 .542 +3.5 Angels 62-59 .512 — Royals 61-59 .508 0.5 Twins 60-59 .504 1 Mariners 61-61 .500 1 Rangers* 59-60 .496 2.5 Rays 60-63 .488 3 Orioles 59-62 .488 3 Blue Jays 59-62 .488 3 Note: Top two teams qualify * late game not included team’s 7-6 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday afternoon. “It’s been a long trip. We have a chance to roll the dice the last six weeks and that’s what we hope to do — compete with a chance to play in October. We’re still engaged in it.”
The Orioles’ next nine home games will be against the same teams they struggled
against out west, starting with the Los Angeles Angels and Oakland Athletics on their upcoming six-game homestand. After a brief three-game series in Boston, the Orioles (59-62) host the Mariners, who they just dropped two of three against at Safeco Field.
“Yeah, this definitely was a long road trip, a tough road trip, and we’re definitely excited to be [going] home where we’re comfortable,” outfielder Craig Gentry said after Wednesday’s loss. “We’ll have an off day tomorrow and hopefully we can finish out this thing strong.”
With the standings where they are, it will be important to play well, especially since both the Angels and Mariners sit ahead of the Orioles in the wild-card race. This will be the Orioles’ only remaining opportunity to gain head-to-head ground on them.
The road trip is “over with and got to get ready because we’re getting these same teams coming in here next week and we have to take care of business,” catcher Caleb Joseph said. “We can’t let those games slip away like we did this past week.”
The Orioles have played well at home this season, posting a 35-23 record at Camden Yards, though they are just 2-2-1 in home series since the break, going 10-7 over that span.
“On paper, if you look at home records [it should be an advantage], but I don’t think the Angels care,” Showalter said. “I don’t think that Oakland cares. What may be perceived as a bad matchup or something with pitching going in, I can’t tell you how many times … it’s so easy to get ambushed up here.”
This stretch will carry the Orioles into September when rosters expand to give Showalter more pieces to use. The Orioles have traditionally played well in the season’s final weeks over the past five years. Last year, the Orioles were 17-12 after Sept. 1 to earn the AL’s final playoff spot.
As usual, the playoff race goes into the season’s final quarter extremely crowded, with seven teams going into Thursday within 31⁄ games of the Angels, who hold the second wild-card spot. And of those teams, the Orioles were one of four with a losing record.
By comparison, at the same point in the season last year — the 121-game mark — the Orioles held possession of the second wild-card spot, leading by two games and were13 games over .500. In 2016, the Orioles won the AL’s final playoff spot by 2½ games, though they clinched with a win on the final day of the regular season.
“It seems like every year [the race is bunched], and then someone takes off,” Showalter said. “It’s a big snowball time of the year. That’s probably what’s been surprising. Sometimes teams, mentally, it becomes a challenge because of the wear and tear on the emotional and mental side of the game to stay engaged.”
Despite an inconsistent season in which the Orioles have been below .500 for most of the past two months, they will play a large role in deciding whether they make the playoffs. Thirty-six of their final 41 games will come against either AL division leaders or teams competing for wild-card spots. The only five games remaining that don’t Orioles utility infielder Ryan Flaherty was activated from the disabled list Thursday. He hasn’t played in the big leagues since May because of a strained right shoulder. qualify are next week’s home series against Athletics and a pair of interleague road games at the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“So you’re always hoping you get on that positive roll,” Showalter said. “But at this level, there’s a small separator. There are some things that can snowball either way. We’ve got what about six weeks left? So we’ll see.” Flaherty activated, Tejada outrighted: The Orioles activated utility man Ryan Flaherty from the 60-day disabled list Thursday and were still able to keep infielder Rubén Tejada in the organization. Tejada cleared outright waivers and was sent to Triple-A Norfolk.
The club had to add Flaherty, who has been on the disabled list since mid-May with a right shoulder strain, to its 25-man roster by Thursday after his 20-day minor league rehabilitation window expired.
Flaherty hit .333/.500/.510 in 16 rehab games with Double-A Bowie and High-A Frederick.
Tejada had been used sparingly since the Orioles acquired shortstop Tim Beckham at the nonwaiver trade deadline on July 31, making just two brief appearances this month amounting to two innings. Tejada, who hit .230/.293/.283 in 41 games with the Orioles, was just 1-for-19 over his last eight games.
He did not have any minor league options remaining, so he had to clear waivers before being outrighted to Norfolk.
Craig Gentry says the Orioles are “definitely excited to be [going] home where we’re comfortable.” The team opens a stretch of 16 of the next 19 games at home.
Starters: Angels’ Parker Bridwell (7-1, 2.88) vs. Wade Miley (6-10, 5.21)
Starters: A’s Chris Smith (0-2, 5.26) vs. Chris Tillman (1-7, 7.94) or TBA
Starters: Angels’ JC Ramirez (10-10, 4.26) vs. Kevin Gausman (9-8, 5.08)