An injured all-star adds to the list of The Orioles' misfortunes - capping off a tough week.
Around the time when the Ravens were putting the finishing touches on a remarkable win over Houston Sunday afternoon here in Baltimore, the finishing touches on the 2013 Orioles season were being applied in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Oh, the Birds haven’t been officially mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. But it’s difficult, bordering on impossible, to draw up a scenario by which the Orioles season extends beyond Sunday’s regular season finale with Boston.
This past week started with promise, as the Orioles went into Fenway Park and took two hard-fought games with the division-winning Red Sox. Suddenly, that second wild card slot, the one the Orioles grabbed last year, seemed in sight. It would be tough doing, but it could be done. That is until Friday’s night’s meeting with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Birds climbed out of a 3-0 hole to lead 4-3 with only nine outs to go in what would have been a stirring win. Instead, nearly four hours later, the game and, in hind sight, the season came crashing down in a soul crushing 18-inning 5-4 loss. The Orioles could only muster six more runs the rest of the four-game series, and the thread of hope they had Friday morning, for all intent and purpose, had snapped.
And, to make matters worse, they lost All-Star third baseman Manny Machado to a horrific-looking leg injury Monday.
You could look at a number of things that played a role in why the boys of black and orange will be lining up October tee times than lining up October batting practice times. The bats of Machado and first baseman Chris Davis cooled dramatically after the All-Star break, and the rest of the club didn’t pick up the slack. That’s one answer.
Closer Jim Johnson was sporadic all season and the arm that had been virtually automatic in shutting down the opposition in 2012 became untrustworthy in 2013. That’s another answer.
But if you’re looking for one thing, one reason to explain last year’s joy and this year’s pain, it’s this: In 2012, the Orioles won 29 of 38 games decided by one run. That’s a .765 winning percentage and if you had that kind of good fortune in Las Vegas, the casino bosses wouldn’t let you in the front door. The law of averages suggested that the Birds could not repeat that success this year, and darned if that law wasn’t accurate.
This year, through yesterday's game, the Orioles are 17-29 in one run games, That’s a 378 winning percentage – 12 fewer wins and 20 more losses. That, my friends, tells the tale of 2013. The Orioles simply ran low on luck, a necessary, if immeasurable component of any successful season.
Pending an epic collapse in this final week, the Orioles will mark a second straight winning campaign, and after the hell of the early part of this century, that’s nothing to gloss over.
But, for 2014, besides a few more bats and a few more arms, the Orioles had better see about grabbing a little more magic to make sure the last week of September is as meaningful as the first week of April.