Boppers, bullpen keep Orioles on winning path

BOB ELLIOTT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:13 AM ET

Manager Buck Showalter and general manager Dan Duquette are in the hunt for the respective American League manager and executive of of the year honours.

The Baltimore Orioles duo could appear on The Ed Sullivan Show as jugglers.

The Orioles went into Yankee Stadium on the weekend, took two of three and sit two games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East. And if not for a clank on Saturday it may have been a Baltimore sweep.

If the season ended today, Baltimore and the Oakland Athletics would gain AL wild-card berths with a 74-59 record.

These are the same Orioles who finished last the previous four years, averaging 95 losses, and are without a post-season appearance since 1997.

At one point the O's lost nine of 13 and 13 of 19, their starting staff ranks 24th in the majors in quality starts, are last in stolen bases, they've made the second-most errors in the majors, have struck out more than all but five of 30 teams, and own the 26th-best on-base percentage.

They have demoted three-fifths of their opening day rotation to triple-A Norfolk and have been without three-fourths of their primary outfielders, Nolan Reimold, Nick Markakis and Endy Chavez, for portions of the season.

So besides the in-and-out roster magic performed in the dugout and in the board room, how on earth have they been able to have such success?

Well, it helps that they are fourth in homers. led by Adam Jones (26), Chris Davis (23), Matt Wieters (18) and J.J. Hardy (18).

The bullpen's 3.04 ERA is fourth in the AL, behind the A's, the Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals, while Orioles relievers have won 23 times, third best in the AL.

Relievers Luis Ayala (4-4, 2.71, 13 walks in 63 innings), Pedro Strop (5-2, 1.86, 29 walks, 49 whiffs in 58 innings), Darren O'Day (6-1, 2.35, 11 walks, 54 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings) and lefty Troy Patton (1-0, 2.58, 11 walks, 58 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings) have allowed Showalter to give the ball to closer Jim Johnson.

Johnson is 1-1 with 41 saves (in 44 chances, 93%) with a 2.93 ERA, walking 12 and fanning 34 in 55 1/3 innings.

The bullpen and the pop have translated into success in one-run games (24-7) and extra innings (12-2).

As the Orioles push towards October the usually routine AL East sees the Boston Red Sox and the Blue Jays battling for fourth spot.


ORIOLES AT BLUE JAYS

MONDAY 1:07 p.m. LHP Joe Saunders vs. LHP J.A. Happ

TUESDAY 7:07 p.m. LHP Zach Britton vs. RHP Carlos Villanueva

WEDNESDAY 7:07 p.m. RHP Miguel Gonzalez vs. RHP Brandon Morrow


ELLIOTT'S TAKE

We liked the Orioles in April when they took two of three at the Rogers Centre (winning games started by Brandon Morrow and Henderson Alvarez, although the bullpen took both losses) and losing to Kyle Drabek. Wei-Yin Chen has been a consistent start, but after that Tommy Hunter was demoted and Jason Hammel was injured. Rookie Miguel Gonzalez had a great August. It may appear that they are doing it with cigar smoke, duct tape, and a cracked mirror, but if the season ended today they would have one of the AL post-season spots. They have won seven off 11 against the Jays.

PREDICTION

Orioles win two of three, at least.


ORIOLES WHO'S HOT

  • Mark Reynolds had a pair of homers Sunday at Yankee Stadium giving him 17 career multi-homer games.
  • Randy Wolf allowed one run in 3 1/3 innings to gain the win in relief over the Yanks Sunday.
  • 3B Manny Machado, 19, has made 22 starts since being promoted. He has three homers, 11 RBIs and a .785 OPS.

ORIOLES WHO'S COLD

  • LF Nate McLouth, who hit in the No. 3 spot at the big little band box in the Bronx, is hitting .209 (14-for-67) since Aug. 14 with two homers, eight RBIs and a .651 OPS.
  • LHP Joe Saunders gave up seven runs -- six earned -- in his Orioles debut on Wednesday against the White Sox.

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