The Baltimore Orioles shut out the Toronto Blue Jays for the second consecutive night last night and even got a little help from the Tampa Bay Rays, who beat the New York Yankees 5-2 to pull themselves into a tie with the Yankees for first place in the AL East. It’s worth mentioning that this is the latest the Orioles have been in first place since September 1997, a 98-win season that not only gave the team its last postseason appearance but also its last division title.
Obviously we would all hope for a better outcome in the playoffs than what happened in 1997.
The Orioles have won three straight, 21 of their past 29, and an AL-leading 39 games on the road on their way to completely wiping out the Yankees’ lead in the division–which had been 10 games back on July 18.
The Orioles will host the Yankees for a pivotal four-game set at Camden Yards starting Thursday, and fans will be treated to what’s shaped up to be the best series matchup all season long.
There are still 27 games left in the season for the birds and they’ll not only need to fight off the Yankees, but also the Rays, who sit just 1.5 games behind both teams in the standings.
Even though expectations were not very high from those outside of the organization (many predicted a 100-loss season), those of us who believed in this team early on did so because of one person: manager Buck Showalter.
Showalter’s track record of turning teams around in his second full season on the job gave reason for legitimate hope. In his four managerial stints with the Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks, Texas Rangers and now the Orioles, Showalter has taken over a struggling franchise and turned them into a winner by his second full year on the job.
Regardless of what happens over the next month though, by virtue of being tied for first place in September, the Baltimore Orioles represent one of the biggest baseball surprises in recent memory.