Looking more closely at Orioles' playoff scenarios heading into final week

September 22, 2014|By Dan Connolly | The Baltimore Sun

The Orioles' games in the next week, for the most part, appear to be meaningless. But there is still something to monitor.

The Orioles have to win one of their next seven games -- or have the Detroit Tigers lose once -- to clinch the second seed in the American League. (The Orioles have already clinched the No. 2 seed against the Kansas City Royals).

That means there will be playoff matchups -- the first two games of the AL Division Series -- at Camden Yards on Oct. 2 and Oct. 3. It’s most likely they’ll be playing the AL Central winner, either the Tigers or the Royals.

That could change if the Orioles (93-62) can catch the Los Angeles Angels (96-60) for the overall top seed. It’s not impossible, especially considering the Angels’ final six games are at playoff contenders -- the Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners. The Orioles play at the New York Yankees (four games) and Toronto Blue Jays (three) to end the season.

Heading into Monday, with the Angels idle, the Orioles are 2 1/2 games behind Los Angeles for the top seed. Another way to look at it is the Angels’ magic number for clinching the top seed is five, so any combination of Orioles’ losses and Angels’ wins that equal five will give Los Angeles home-field advantage throughout the playoffs (and World Series, since the AL won the All-Star Game in July).

With the emergence of the Angels, the Orioles’ games on Oct. 2 and Oct. 3 likely will be in the afternoons; the West Coast teams traditionally get the night games.

If the Orioles and Angels tied with the same overall record, the Orioles would claim the No. 1 seed because they beat the Angels in four of six games this year. They still probably would play in the afternoons at Camden Yards in the ALDS.

Of the five likeliest playoff teams, the Orioles only have winning records against two this year: The Angels and the Mariners (5-2). The Orioles are 1-5 against Detroit, 2-4 versus Oakland and 3-4 versus Kansas City. Even with four games left against the Yankees, the Orioles have already clinched that season series by winning 11 of their first 15 games.

It’d be pretty surprising if the Orioles didn’t get the Tigers or the Royals in the first round. You’d think they match up better against the Royals, simply because of the Tigers’ stout starting rotation, but the Royals bullpen is much better than Detroit’s.

If the Orioles get into a bullpen battle with the Tigers, they’d have the upper hand; that’s not necessarily true with Kansas City.

But I guess we’re getting ahead of ourselves. There’s still a glimmer of intrigue left this week.

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