The Baltimore Orioles have defied logic this season in a manner that transcends their unlikely stature as a playoff contender.
Baltimore has been outscored by 49 runs, committed more errors than any team in the majors and ranks last in stolen bases. In addition, the Orioles have already lost two leadoff hitters to year-ending injuries, rank 23rd with a .245 batting average and currently employ a makeshift starting rotation that includes two rookies and a 24-year-old with an 11-17 career record.
Yet, instead of stumbling toward a 15th consecutive losing season, the surprising Orioles (62-53) trail the A.L. East-leading New York Yankees by only 5 1/2 games and are in second place in the wild-card race. If the postseason began today, Baltimore would be a participant.
“From what I understand, this team has some people scratching their heads,” manager Buck Showalter said.
The Orioles are seven wins away from matching last season’s total. They’re 22-19 within the division after going 28-44 in 2011. And, with a 32-25 record on the road, they’ve already improved upon last year’s 30-51 mark.
Baltimore has been successful because of its ability to win the close ones. The Orioles are 22-6 in one-run games, including an 11-game streak that began in late June. They’ve also won 12 in a row in extra innings.
Much of the credit goes to a bullpen with two exceptional performers in the back end. Setup man Pedro Strop (4-2, 1.24 ERA) has a run of 16 consecutive scoreless appearances since July 3 and All-Star closer Jim Johnson has 34 saves in 37 opportunities. Throw in the consistent performances of Luis Ayala (4-3, 2.56), Darren O’Day (6-0, 2.51), Troy Patton (1-0, 2.58) and Matt Lindstrom (1-0, 2.51), and no wonder Baltimore is 47-0 when leading after seven innings.
Clearing the bases
The Yankees have signed Derek Lowe. Lowe, a 39-year-old sinkerballer, earned a four-inning save in New York’s 8-2 win over the Rangers. … The Los Angeles Dodgers placed third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr. on the 15-day disabled list with a left hip injury and recalled Elian Herrera from Triple-A Albuquerque. … Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko has cleared a battery of post-concussion tests and will resume physical activity today. Konerko was placed on the seven-day disabled list Friday, three days after being accidentally elbowed in the head by Kansas City’s Jarrod Dyson during a close play. … The Baltimore Orioles have acquired left-hander J.C. Romero from the Cleveland Indians for minor league infielder Carlos Rojas.