On Sundays, I usually have lunch with some friends before the game at one of the fine Baltimore establishments across the street from Camden Yards.
Before this season, the topic of conversation would have centered on what the Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins or Baltimore Ravens and the other teams the NFL would be doing considering the Hall of Fame game (a preseason contest) was on yesterday.
We all would be looking at the current football lines and looking at the online football betting sites.
However, that topic one came up only once that day. This has been a huge change since last season.
When it did, the general consensus was that, "um, we're not that interested in them now".
"Maybe when the season is over. Or in November."
I said, "I don't have the bandwidth for that now".
However, we are worried about one Baltimore team: the Orioles.
As of this morning, the Orioles are ten games over .500 at 61-51. That’s pretty good; however, unlike last season, when the Birds seemingly came out of nowhere to end up in the playoffs, more is expected from the 2013 roster.
Instead of looking at things with rose-colored glasses and hoping for the best, we are now asking ourselves this: can this team repeat what they did last year?
After their loss yesterday, I’m not too sure. Yes, there’s a lot of baseball left; however, the Orioles needed to take two out of three from the Seattle Mariners. That obviously did not happen due to their loss on Sunday.
This time around, it may be very, very tough for Baltimore to grab a playoff spot – however, not impossible.
The Orioles are now 6 ½ games behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East divisional race. They trail the upstart Cleveland Indians – who are surprising the baseball establishment – by 1 ½ games for the second wild spot.
At this point, it could be safe to say that the Orioles may be in line for the second wild card spot. Sadly, taking the division will be a monumental task if the Red Sox or Rays don’t slump – or fall into a collapse.
The Texas Rangers are ahead of Baltimore by one game in the wild race. The Kansas City Royals – who are relevant this season now with a 56-52 record – and are 9-1 in their last ten games are 4 ½ in the wild card hunt.
While I think that Cleveland and Kansas City may fade, they could also be for real. Let’s not forget what many thought about the Orioles last season.
There are 50 games left in the season and the Orioles have been playing average baseball – about a .500 clip – since June.
If the Orioles are to end up in the playoffs for the second consecutive year, they will probably at least need to win 90 games, if not more.
The offense has to do much better and find ways to score runs aside from the longball or extra-base hit.
And yes, the starting pitching has to take their game to another level. I’m not sure if the acquisition of Bud Norris from the Houston Astros will be enough for the Orioles to get into the playoffs, but they will have to make due with what they have got.
With this current homestand done, the Orioles are now on the road for nine games on the west coast against the San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants and the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The first two teams are in the midst of disappointing seasons; meanwhile, the Diamondbacks are trying to keep pace with the Los Angeles Dodgers – who seem to now be running away with the National League West.
After the facing Diamondbacks, the Orioles come home and face the Colorado Rockies – another sub .500 team.
Then things don’t get easy. In fact, the final two weeks of August are a grind. The Orioles have to then face the Tampa Bay Rays, followed by the Oakland Athletics, and then go on the road against the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees to finish off the month.
They have to continue taking advantage of teams in a ‘soft’ portion of the schedule, as I think the final two weeks of this month could make or break the Orioles in their playoff hunt.