Playoff Chances Squashed as Slump Continues

A little over a week ago, as the Orioles excitingly put together a seven-game win streak, I started a piece with the old baseball cliché, “A week sure is a long time in baseball…”

Unfortunately, this week that cliché still rings true, however the situation is different – vastly different.

Over the past week, the Orioles have gone from being on the verge of a playoff position and set to launch with 25 games remaining, to being completely out of contention. They’ve lost seven of their last eight and six in a row. So poor has their week been, that they suddenly need to make up five games over the last 17 to catch the Minnesota Twins who occupy the second American League wildcard spot.

Is this achievable? Mathematically yes. Realistically no.

The 75-69 Twins have 12 games remaining against sub .500 teams – sixth against the lowly Tigers, four against the Blue Jays, and one more against the Padres. Eight of the 12 are at home too, so it’s incredibly hard to see how they won’t go at least .500 or better from here on in. With  that said, to overtake them and move into wildcard position, the O’s would need to win at least 13 of 17 to sneak in. To put a 13-4 streak into context, the O’s started the season red hot – better than any other team in baseball in fact – yet even still, they went just 12-5. 

Not only is this team unable to hit consistently enough to achieve 13 wins down the stretch, at least half of the rotation remains a debacle. The pre-deadline addition of Jeremy Hellickson (2-4, 6.54 ERA) has failed and is another name on an ever-increasing list of poor pitching acquisitions under Dan Duquette’s reign. Ubaldo Jimenz (5-10, 6.75 ERA) continues to struggle as his time in Baltimore nears its much-awaited end, and Chris Tillman (1-7, 7.82 ERA) simply hasn’t bounced back from injuries sustained earlier in the season.

Back to the hitting, where the numbers over the past eight games have been truly alarming. During the stretch the team’s been out-scored 41 to 21, averaging just 2.63 runs per game. They’re no longer hitter well with runners in scoring position (6-for-25) and they’re leaving far too many on base (37). The home run happy team has also seen the strikeouts return, with 74 being tallied since the poor run commenced. Chris Davis’ form continues to frustrate everyone in Baltimore, striking out 14 times while hitting just .143 over the stretch, while Mark Trumbo isn’t faring much better, hitting .-148 with seven strikeouts. Jonathan Schoop, who has carried the Orioles offensively all season, is hitting just .161, while the likes of Trey Mancini and Tim Beckham have also cooled off markedly. The slump is contagious.

While the roller coaster of an Orioles season always manages to spark life just when you thing it’s over, as hard as it is to accept, this time it really is. The Orioles won’t feature in the postseason in 2017 and for now, the best we can hope for is a .500+ season – which would be their sixth consecutive. Now three games below that mark, even that appears to be a long shot. In addition to pushing for a winning record, it’s time Buck Showalter had a good look at some kids – most notably Austin Hays, Anthony Santander, and Chance Sisco. As seen with Trey Mancini’s incredible feats late last year, some extended playing time can really encourage a star to shine and set them up nicely for a full season next year. If nothing else, it’ll also prevent us from watching Chris Davis strike out repeatedly, which may make us forget that $161 million contract he’s signed to for a while.

On a brighter note, I’m set to save myself the embarrassment of this…

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