For the first time in 15 years, the Baltimore Orioles are a winning team. Fans in Baltimore and beyond can once again sport their O's cap proudly.
The focus was never on getting about the .500 mark, though. That's not what Buck Showalter and Co. were motivated to do, even as early as the start of spring training.
The Birds are looking to land themselves a spot in the playoffs. They currently have possession of the second wild-card spot.
But that's not the goal, either. No, the Orioles are thinking bigger. They're thinking what most would have labeled as impossible before the start of the season: taking the division from the rival New York Yankees.
And if the O's want to make a deep playoff run, they're going to have to do just that.
Think about it: If the O's finish second in the AL East and grab a wild-card spot, it would likely be the second one behind the surprising Oakland Athletics—which would mean that the one-game playoff would be played in Oakland, a place where the O's have struggled mightily for the last few years.
Odds are, the Orioles would almost certainly lose that game. But thing is, the odds haven't really been a good indicator for what's happened this season, for the O's and A's alike.
So say the O's take the one-game playoff. They would then have to go into New York, or Texas, or Chicago/Detroit with their rotation out of whack. They'd have to start their No. 2 against the top of the opposition's rotation. And to be honest, the O's rotation really can't stack up when already down their ace.
It's not impossible, by any means, for the Orioles to take said series. But it would be darn tough. And it would even further tire them out going forward.
The O's have the will, the belief and the mental toughness to accomplish that. The Orioles and the A's are probably the only two teams in the league right now who could. However, it would be so much easier for them to just take the division and have an automatic bye during the wild-card sudden death round.
To me, that is honestly the most crucial aspect to the Orioles having a successful playoff run. Even more so, it would give the team's key starters like We-Yin Chen and Miguel Gonzalez, as well as the team's overworked bullpen, a much-needed breather before the stakes become even higher.
If the O's can do that, then I feel like everything will fall into place from there. The recipe will create itself as it goes along, since that's what the O's have been doing all season anyway.
The recipe is finding a way. Luckily, the O's have been a collective master chef during 2012.
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