A few short weeks ago, seemingly everyone was saying how mediocre the AL East was, how there wasn’t much quality and how there was certainly no dominant team.
Well, the Baltimore Orioles have gone 16-6 since July 21 and are 69-50 entering play Aug. 15. They’ve also opened up a whopping seven-and-a-half game lead in the division.
“They could run away with it,” MASNsports.com Orioles beat writer Roch Kubatko said on Ferrall on the Bench. “And Oakland lost again (Thursday), so they’re only like two-and-a-half games back for having the best record in the American League and home-field (advantage in the playoffs).”
How Baltimore has gotten this far is a mystery.
Matt Wieters (elbow) hasn’t played since May. Manny Machado missed the first month of the season, came back, was suspended five games, came back again and then hurt his knee. Chris Davis (.196) is hitting below the Mendoza line. J.J. Hardy has just six home runs. Ubaldo Jimenez (4-8, 4.51 ERA, 1.53 WHIP) has been more or less awful. And Tommy Hunter was supposed to be the closer, but that didn’t really work out.
“You can go on and on,” Kubatko said. “(If I had told you all this in March), you would have thought this is going to be the worst team in baseball – and they have the second-best record in the American League. It’s just amazing. On paper, this shouldn’t be happening, but every night somebody else steps up and Buck Showalter does a great job with them and it’s just working.”
“And I know the American League East might be down this year, but they’ve had so many things go wrong that they might be the most resilient team in baseball right now.”
Showalter deserves a lot of credit for that. No manager in baseball, perhaps, has done a better job at managing his roster from top to bottom.
“Buck’s done a good job of pretty much using everybody at this point,” Kubatko said. “When Delmon Young got hot, Buck was playing him all the time. (Steve) Pearce was hot before that, and he was playing him. He doesn’t like guys sitting on the bench too long. But where he’s best is the way he manages the bullpen. He does it better than anybody I’ve seen. I’ve covered a lot of managers that are terrible at it, and there’s like a boycott by the middle of the year. Guys are burnt out and they complain about it. So he’s good at getting guys in the game, he knows when they need a rest and he knows when they need to pitch. If they haven’t pitched in three or four days, he’ll use them no matter what the starter’s doing. So he’s brilliant in that regard.”
Amazingly, Baltimore is 34-26 at home and 35-24 on the road.
“He’s just done a good job,” Kubatko said. “It seems like anytime he puts a guy in a game, you say, ‘Why’s he playing this guy? It goes against all logic.’ And the guy ends up getting two or three hits. I don’t know how much of that is just rolling the dice and it’s all coming up 7s for him. (I don’t know) how much of that’s luck, how much of it’s skill. But it seems like he’s just been pushing all the right buttons this year. He’s using all 25 guys and he’s getting results – and that’s what he’s needed with the negative stuff that’s gone on. He’s had other guys step up at the right times.”