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Overachieving O's Have Chance To Cement Their Relevance

My favorite video game to play right now is MLB The Show 21. The lead commentator for the game, former major leaguer Mark DeRosa, has a saying that sticks with me.

“By May, you really start to have an idea about what kind of season you’re going to have.”

We’ve reached the start of this pivotal month, when pretenders fall short of their April standard and start showing their true colors. Or, for teams who had a bad start, they begin to shine as the weather heats up.

The Baltimore Orioles, everyone’s favorite punching bag for the last three years, are facing this month head on. Their series win vs. the red-hot Oakland Athletics showed that.

The O’s won the first two games of the series behind rock-solid pitching from John Means and Matt Harvey, who pitched a combined 12.2 innings and allowed four runs. Means was particularly impressive, scattering three hits over seven innings on Friday while striking out nine.

The Orioles’ offense woke up on Saturday, bringing eight runs across on 10 hits. Even in the season finale defeat on Sunday, the Orioles scored five runs.

Baltimore stands at 13-15 as of May 2, and the O’s are just 3.5 games out of first place. Even if you think the Orioles are one of the worst teams in the league, you have to admit they’re at worst plucky. At best, maybe everyone in the media was wrong and this team isn’t as bad as we all thought they were.

We’ll know a lot more at the end of the month, which stands to be a tough gauntlet for the Orioles to run through.

First, the O’s have to finish this West Coast trip with three games against the better-than-advertised Mariners. They return to Camden Yards for a four-gamer vs. the Red Sox before a quick trip to Queens to play two against the Mets.

After that, it’s a six-game homestand against the Yankees and Rays. The Orioles then hit the road for a 10-game trip with series against the Nationals, Twins and White Sox.

None of these will be easy series. Boston leads the division, the Yanks are a threat to score 10 runs every time they take the field and the Rays are always an issue. Add in playoff-contenders Minnesota and Chicago, and you’ve got a real challenge on your hands.

The good news is that the Orioles’ bats have been better of late. Ryan Mountcastle has hit safely in seven straight games and making better contact with the baseball. Trey Mancini is even hotter, hitting .318 over his last 12 games.

Brandon Hyde’s bullpen continues to keep the Orioles in games, though the relievers didn’t have a great series against the A’s. The O’s are still sixth in the majors in bullpen ERA at 3.05.

If Means and Harvey continue to toss solid outings every fifth day and the bullpen continues the track they’re on, we’re looking at a team that’s going to be competitive in almost every game.

That’s far more than we expected in March.

So buckle up folks. We’re in for an interesting month. Should the Orioles finish this month within striking distance of the playoffs, a lot of pundits will have explaining to do.

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Tuesday, 18 May 2021
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