Orioles outfielders Nick Markakis, Matt Angle and Adam Jones celebrate after taking 3 of 4 at Fenway from the Red Sox (AP Photo)
The Baltimore Orioles will chalk up yet another losing season after beginning with it high hopes. However the young Birds are not nearly as bad as their record indicates and during the final month of the season they have not only come on strong but more than any other team have made what seemed to be a boring Wild Card race a down to the wire affair.
It appears that the Boston Red Sox are in the midst of an epic September collapse. As the Red Sox faded the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim California or whatever they are calling themselves this year have turned up the heat and are breathing down the neck of the Red Sox who led the Wild Card race by 9 games at the beginning of the month. It has been an amazing thing to watch because the Red Sox were supposed to challenge the Yankees for the East or do battle with the Bronx Bombers in the ALCS.
But the real wild card this month is the pesky Baltimore Orioles who looked in August to be staring at a 100 loss season. The Birds pitching which had been horrendous turned around, with the exception of Brian Matusz who cannot get past the second inning. Their hitting which was already much better than 2010, especially in home runs got hotter and they started winning especially against the Rays, Orioles, Angels and even the Yankees.
The Orioles split a four game series against the Yankees and 2 of 3 games each from the Angels and Rays temporally blunting each team’s race to the Wild Card. To top it off the O’s have won 3 of 4 games at Fenway against the Red Sox this week. To make matters worse of the Sox they have to play their three games against the Yankees in New York and their final three games of the season at Baltimore against a team that now has their number.
What is wrong with the Red Sox? Well as Orioles Hall of Fame Manager Earl Weaver said “Nobody likes to hear it, because it’s dull, but the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” The Red Sox starters have an ERA over 6.0 in September. Their pitching staff which has struggled since mid-season now can’t seem to win a game if their hitters don’t put up double digits. They are 5-16 in September and have only won one 1 run game in that time, a 4-3 win against the Rays on September 16th. Their other four wins were by scores of 12-7 againstTexas, 14-0 and 18-6 against the Blue Jays and 18-9 in the one game that they took from the Orioles.
Big Poppy, David Ortiz sits after the 6-4 loss Wednesday night (AP Photo)
I think that things like this are what make baseball such a magical sport. For teams like the Orioles, and their National League East cellar dweller counterpart Florida Marlins who have no chance at making the playoffs these games are their playoff games and they are creating havoc. Now for the Red Sox they have to hope for their arch enemy, the New York Yankees to beat the Rays. There is drama every day of the month in September and every game can mean something. The lowliest teams can dash the hopes of the elite as the grueling 162 game season takes its toll on teams and every roster move a manager makes is important. There is no running out the clock. As Earl Weaver said “You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.” I’m sure that there are many Red Sox Fans that wish that they could. The Red Sox can still win the Wild Card but they need help and afford to keep losing. If they don’t get the help and cannot win some games it will be a long winter in Bean Town for the Red Sox faithful. Manager Terry Francona said in his post game interview ‘We’re going to have to fight for everything the rest of the way out.” That is true because the Rays and the Angels will do all that they can to steal this from the Red Sox.