Outside of the Baltimore area, very few people would have guessed that the Orioles had a chance at being contenders in the 2012 MLB season.
They finished the 2011 season No. 5 in the American League East with a 69-93 record. Only the Twins, Mariners and Astros posted worse marks.
In April, 49 ESPN experts made their 2012 season predictions. The Baltimore Orioles didn't receive a single vote to win the AL East, nor did they get any respect in the predictions for the two wild-card berths.
In case you're wondering, the consensus was that the Angels would be the AL representative in the World Series, the New York Yankees would win the AL East and the Rays and Rangers would take the Wild Cards. Even the Blue Jays received two votes for the Wild Card.
Despite the lack of faith nationally, the Orioles have been strong.
They finished the month of April with a 14-9 record, followed by a 15-13 May.
Fast forward to September, and the O's own a 87-64 record (as of Sept. 23), which has assured the team their first winning season since 1997.
That record also makes them the second-best team in the American League East, just one game behind the New York Yankees. They also have a two-game lead over the Oakland A's for the first wild-card spot.
The Orioles would have to tank in their last 12 games to miss out on the postseason. They play five against the Red Sox, four against the Blue Jays and three against the Rays.
On the season, the O's are 27-15 against those three opponents. The odds are surely in their favor.
What has been more impressive about this Orioles team is their unconventional way of winning.
They are ranked No. 15 in MLB in runs scored with 666 and have allowed 671 runs, No. 12 overall. The team owns a .248 batting average, No. 21, and their 3.98 team ERA puts them at No. 18.
Yet still they win.
This season, the O's are 15-2 in extra-inning games. They have won 11 consecutive extra-inning games on the road, an MLB single-season record.
The team is also 27-8 in one-run games and have won 16 extra inning games in a row. Only the 1949 Indians won more consecutive extra inning games, with 17.
Eighteen other teams started the 2012 season with higher payrolls than the Baltimore Orioles; only five teams have a better record today.
For a team whose longest winning streak on the season has been six games, the Baltimore Orioles are proving themselves to be the toast of the American League.
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