MLB Playoff Predictions 2012: Baltimore Is Picking Up Speed at Right Time

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MLB Playoff Predictions 2012: Baltimore Is Picking Up Speed at Right Time
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
If the Orioles keep playing at this level, they may be celebrating more than a win come October.

One of the best storylines of the season is the Baltimore Orioles' run through the American League East standings. With the postseason two weeks away, the Orioles are picking up speed at just the right time.

Baltimore hasn’t made the playoffs in 15 years, but that could all change this season. Currently holding on to the second American League wild-card spot, the O’s are 4.5 games up on the Los Angeles Angels and one game behind the New York Yankees for the AL East crown.

The Orioles are so excited that they’ve already started preparing for playoff ticket sales (via CBSlocal.com). And who can blame them?

In April, Sports Illustrated predicted the postseason teams. None of the experts picked Baltimore to be where they are.

Did ESPN’s experts give them any chance? Nope. It was supposed to be the Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays.

The Orioles have shocked the baseball world to this point, and they are playing high-quality baseball at the right time. Baltimore has won seven of its last 10, including four straight.

This late-season run hasn’t been without drama recently, though. Last series, the O’s went into extra innings in two of the three games against Seattle. But Baltimore won both extra-inning games and finished off a three-game sweep of the M's.

Baltimore is 12-6 in September, including sweeps of Seattle and Tampa Bay. And the Orioles have done it without some of the biggest names in their lineup.

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The Orioles are missing outfield Nick Markakis, second baseman Brian Roberts, designated hitter Jim Thome, third baseman Wilson Betemit and four pitchers. But that hasn’t stopped this patchwork team from winning games.

Wall Street Journal writer David Roth calls the Orioles' run a “miracle.” He may be on to something.

Baltimore is being outscored by opponents this season (663-653), but, somehow, is still in contention to win the AL East. The O’s are near the bottom of the MLB in batting average (T-24th, .247), on-base percentage (23rd, .311) and WHIP (T-19th, 1.31). Yet somehow, they just keep finding ways to win.

If they keep this pace, the Orioles will have considerable momentum heading into the playoffs. Each of the team’s final 13 games is against division foes, including a three-game set against the Rays to close out the regular season.

That’s a favorable schedule since Baltimore is 35-24 against division rivals so far this season.

Home or away, it doesn’t really matter―they have nearly identical records. The O’s are 42-32 at home and 43-32 on the road.

With the postseason just around the corner, Baltimore has a considerable edge in two crucial categories. The Orioles are an MLB-best 27-8 in one-run games and are 15-2 in extra-inning games.

Whether they snag a wild-card spot or win the division, Baltimore’s run has been one for the ages. It has defied baseball logic and statistical explanation to become one of the best teams in baseball this season.

If they continue to play the way they have all season, the Orioles could be poised to bring home their first World Series title since 1983. Don’t look now, but the Orioles are for real.

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