Toronto at Baltimore, August 8-10

Monday, August 08 2022 @ 01:00 PM EDT

Contributed by: Magpie

After splitting two games with the Rays down in Tampa, and then splitting four games with the Twins over in Minneapolis, whether or not the Jays come home with a winning record on this road trip come down to three games with the Orioles in Bal'mer.

When the Yankees left the Jays (and everyone else) in the dust early on, we told ourselves - well, all right. We see all those games they've played with the Orioles. The Yankees took 4 of 6 from them in April. They took another 5 of 7 from them in May. The Jays didn't play a single game with the Orioles those first two months. Baltimore was a tasty morsel we thought we were saving for the last two months of the season, when the Orioles would provide the opposition no less than 15 times in Toronto's final 54 games.

Except these don't seem to be the Orioles we were promised, the Orioles we looked forward to. Oh, they started out true to form. They went 7-14 in April, a pace that matches almost perfectly their 2021 form, when they lost 110 games.

But then they went 14-16 in May - were it not for their problems with the Yankees, something the entire league was going through that month, they'd have posted a winning record. The Orioles hadn't had a winning month since August 2017.

They promptly got themselves that long overdue winning month, their first in almost five years, by going 14-12 in June. The Blue Jays finally showed up on their schedule, and the two teams split a four game set at the Rogers Centre.

And then came July, and it appears that merely playing better than .500 was no longer good enough for them. They'd had a taste of success, and thought it would be even more fun to play really well. What would you say to a month of .640 (16-9) baseball, highlighted by a ten game winning streak, that actually inserted them into the hunt for the three AL Wild Card spots?

I'd say what on earth is going on? And, incredibly, we were all obliged to wonder - what would Orioles management do at the deadline? As if it actually mattered! Because it did!

So... would they bring in reinforcements, to aid their sudden charge towards a completely unexpected chance at post-season play?
They would not. Instead they would trade both their all-stars, beloved veteran DH Trey Mancini and closer Jorge Lopez for packages of prospects. Young GM Mike Elias was saying, as plainly as possible, that his team's time was coming. It just wasn't coming quite yet.

Clearly shattered by this development, the young Orioles... won their first five games in August.

They just don't know any better. They don't know they're not supposed to be here. They don't know they're not supposed to be contending for anything yet.

But here they are, with the same record as the Cleveland Guardians, just two games behind Tampa Bay and Seattle, who hold down the final two Wild Card berths.

 While Camden Yards is definitely home run friendly, it's a fairly neutral park overall, offense increases there just a little. This has been a team with about an average offense. But they're probably a little better than that. The Orioles best hitter is their hotshot rookie catcher, Adley Rutschman, who only came up in May, took a few weeks to get comfortable, and then decided to show the world that he was the best hitting catcher in all of baseball. Since the 4th of July, Rutschman is hitting .329/.477/.529 which is a pretty decent way to make your case  (he's getting DH action on the days he's not behind the plate.) And while both Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander got off to horrible starts, which are still dragging down their season numbers - they've both been much more like themselves these last couple of months. Which is pretty good, as you may recall. This is a deeper and more dangerous bunch of hitters than they had in April, although they will miss Trey Mancini, of course, (the Astros probably asked themselves - who could we get that no one anywhere could possibly boo?) But they have lots and lots of young prospects that they'd like to see in action.

But the really shocking development is on the other side of the ball. Their pitching is pretty good. I repeat - Baltimore's pitching is pretty good. Only four AL staffs have a better ERA. Only four teams give up fewer runs. This is stunning, amazing, mind-boggling. Inconceivable, and I know what that word means.  It's the Baltimore Orioles! How can this even be? What laws of man and nature have been overturned to make such wonders possible?

I bid you to remind yourself that it wasn't that long ago (2019) that the Orioles became the only team in the history of baseball to allow more than 300 home runs in a single season. It was just last year that their staff allowed 258 homers. Only four teams in history have allowed more - and of course one of those four was the 2019 Orioles. Only 22 teams in the history of baseball have allowed more runs than the Orioles did just last season, in a data set of 2,790 team seasons going back to 1893. (I maintain my Big Honking Database so I can pass along such astonishing tidbits!) When you rank 2,768th out of 2,790, success is not an option. But here they are. Succeeding. Waiting for Toronto to come to town.

This was not what the Blue Jays, and those of us who follow them, were expecting to encounter when August came around.

Well, as the poet says:

In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o Mice an Men
          Gang aft agley,
An leae us nought but grief an pain


Mon 8 Aug - Kikuchi (4-5, 4.86) vs Lyles (8-8, 4.40)
Tue 9 Aug - Manoah (12-5, 2.45) vs Bradish (1-4, 6.55)
Wed 10  Aug - Berrios (8-4, 5.19) vs Kremer (4-3, 3.43)

All three games are 7:05 starts.  Do not take these guys lightly.