It’s the first time since 1997 that the Baltimore Orioles are playing meaningful games in September. The Orioles have not had a winning season since the days of the great Cal Ripken Jr. was still fielding ground balls at shortstop.
It has been a long 15 years for the Orioles and their fans. Since 1997, the most games the Orioles have won in a season was 79, which followed up their last playoff appearance. The highest they have finished in the AL East since 1997 was third place in 2004.
Since the Orioles last division title in 1997, the New York Yankees have won the division 11 times. The Boston Red Sox have won the division once, and the Tampa Bay Rays won the division twice in that time span.
Normally, the Yankees win the division and the Boston Red Sox claim the lone Wild Card spot in the American League. But this year the division has been completely flipped upside down.
The Red Sox have had a year they want to forget as soon as possible. They have had problems with manager Bobby Valentine and players not performing up to standards, which eventually lead to completely dismantling of the team.
The Toronto Blue Jays — who have had struggles of their own winning the AL East — have been one of the most battered teams all year. Nearly their whole pitching staff has saw time on the DL to go along with some of their most important starters like Jose Bautista, Brett Lawrie, and J.P Arencibia, all seeing DL time this season.
The Yankees got off to a cold start. Going 13-9 in the month of April, and then posting a 14-14 record in the month of May.
This opened the door for the Orioles in the AL East. The O’s got off to a 13-9 start in April, then went 15-13 in May. Then, like a lot of people thought they would, they cooled off. Between June and July the Orioles had a sub .500 record. Going 26-27 in that time span.
The Yankees heated up and took over the division, and left everyone in their rear-view mirror. At one time the Yankees had a 10 game lead over the Orioles, and it looked like the Bronx Bombers were going to cruise all the way the rest of the year and win the division yet again.
But the Yankees have played sub .500 baseball since July, and the Orioles got red hot in August. And in the first week of September the Orioles find themselves tied for first place.
On Thursday night, the Yankees and Orioles opened up a four game series. The games atmosphere having a playoff feel to it. Both teams are battling for first, and trying to knock the other team down in the standings.
Camden Yards was packed, and was as loud as its ever been in 15 years. The Orioles got up on the Yankees quick, and built a 6-1 lead. The Yankees put up five runs in the top of the eighth to tie the game. But like all feel good stories, the Orioles came back and hit three home runs in the bottom of the eighth and put four runs up, and eventually won the game 10-6.
It was one of the most exciting games the Orioles have played in September in years. And it provides a breath of fresh air, not only to Orioles fans, who get to see meaningful September baseball, but for baseball. It’s not just the Yankees, Red Sox, or the Texas Rangers, battling for a playoff spot this year. It’s teams like the Orioles, Oakland A’s, Washington Nationals, who are all competing for the playoffs.
It gets fan bases back into the game of baseball, and gets people excited for the playoffs that don’t get to see October baseball every year. It has been a great season, and the Orioles are just one of the many great feel good stories of 2012.
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