Baltimore Orioles: 4 Things the Birds Do Better Than Every AL Playoff Contender
The Baltimore Orioles clinched their first postseason berth for the first time since 1997 yesterday with their win over the Boston Red Sox and the loss of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to the Texas Rangers.
The Orioles can do no worse than the second AL wild-card spot, but they have their eyes on a bigger prize: The AL East crown.
Currently tied atop their division with the New York Yankees, the Orioles and their fans are looking forward to a (hopefully) successful playoff run.
Before said playoff run begins, let's look at how the Orioles fare against their playoff-contending rivals all across the AL.
The O's may not be the best team in the AL on paper, but there are certainly things that no other team in the league can do better than they can.
Win in Extras
The Birds have lost just two extra-inning games all season. And those were games number five and six on the year.
This team has won 16 consecutive extra-inning contests, which is a franchise record. In fact, only one other team in baseball history has a longer streak than that (within one season).
It's easy to see how this Orioles team is different from ones in recent memory. O's teams of the past would have seemingly given up come extra-inning time, but not this team. They are determined to win every game, no matter how long it takes.
It's an admirable and very useful quality. If you concede defeat, you automatically lose. This team refuses to do that.
If the O's are going to extras, they're probably going to come out on top.
Slam the Door
Orioles' closer Jim Johnson (pictured, right) is 50-for-53 in save opportunities this season.
The Orioles don't lose ball games with a late lead.
With effective setup men Pedro Strop and Darren O'Day bridging the late gap to Johnson and guys like Luis Ayala and Brian Matusz helping in the sixth and seventh innings, the Orioles' bullpen is a tough one to crack.
That's a huge plus for them, and something that's sure to give opposing playoff teams fits.
After all, you can't win if you can't hold a lead.
Play for Each Other
The subject of this slide is most certainly something based on observation and opinion. There are no statistics to measure it.
But in my mind, one of the major keys to the Baltimore Orioles' success this season is the team's ability to play for each other.
Think about it. There is not one player who stands above all the rest. This team doesn't have a Robinson Cano, or a Josh Hamilton or a Miguel Cabrera. It's just a bunch of talented ballplayers doing the things they need to do to get the job done, for each other.
Ask power-hitting shortstop J.J. Hardy to bunt a guy over. He's done it multiple times. Starters Jake Arrieta and Brian Matusz have become solid bullpen pieces down the stretch after struggling in the first half of the season as starters. Aging veteran and future Hall of Famer Jim Thome has absolutely no ego and welcomes the opportunity to help the team in the best way for him to at this point in his career, and that's in a platoon role.
These guys care only about winning.
The New York Yankees were supposed to be good. So were the Texas Rangers and the Detroit Tigers.
The Baltimore Orioles were supposed to lose 100 games.
Undoubtedly, the O's have been the biggest surprise of the 2012 season. They surprise with extra-inning wins, clutch long balls and the ability of their bullpen.
So then, why can't the surprises continue?
Maybe the O's will continue to surprise everyone more often than any other AL team does this season. Maybe they won't.
But that's the point of surprises, right? You just never really know.