SEATTLE – Looking at the MLB standings heading into the second half of the season, several teams have jumped off the page as contenders that probably weren’t on anyone’s radar come Opening Day.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are surprising many with their lead in the NL West with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Texas Rangers lead the NL West at 52-39 after going a terrible 68-94 just a season ago.
And then there are the Baltimore Orioles, a team that two years ago had a 52-110 record, the worst in the MLB, who currently owns a five-game lead in the first wild-card spot at 54-35 while sitting at just two American League games. the best Tampa Bay Rays to lead the AL East.
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The Orioles and their fans have been desperately waiting to make it back to the playoffs. After posting a record above .500 last season for the first time since 2016, which is the last time Baltimore made the postseason, the franchise believed it was on the right track to win baseball again.
Maybe the Orioles didn’t think they would be as good after the first half. But if they want to make the playoffs this season and break their drought, Adam Jones, a Baltimore legend who was on that 2016 list the last time they were represented in the postseason, knows the recipe for success.
Trust that you have everything you need right now to make it.
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«Keep up with what you’re doing right now,» he said simply at The Players’ Party in Seattle hosted by the MLB Players’ Association, Lids and Topps. «There’s always talk of making a move or something. But do you need to do it? Do the guys in the house think they can do it? I think they can.»
«But there are always rumors that he might make a move, I’m not the general manager. [GM Mike] Elias has done a great job.»
Since taking over in 2019, Elias has been building the roster with tactical moves to get them where they want to be in a tough AL East division. His first big pick was simply an early overall that year when Adley Rutschman, who stunned Jones and the rest of the MLB with his switch-hitting performance in this year’s Home Run Derby in Seattle, was waived from Oregon State.
Rutschman has achieved borderline superstar status in the MLB, as the team’s franchise catcher who has all five necessary tools to build. But he was just one of four All-Stars who represented the American League at T-Mobile Park on Tuesday, and one of them started in center field.
That was Austin Hays, a third-round pick of the Orioles in 2016 who is hitting .314/.355/.498 with 22 doubles, nine home runs and 36 RBIs in 78 games. Another local talent is Felix Bautista, and though he allowed the game-winning home run in his All-Star debut, he still had 23 saves for the O’s (fifth in MLB) and has a 1.07 ERA on the year.
Finally, Yennier Cano has surprised everyone this season, as the 29-year-old has a 1.48 ERA in 42.2 innings, serving as one of the best first-half stories and, more importantly, a key member of the team. Orioles bullpen. He was acquired in the Jorge López trade for Elías from the Minnesota Twins.
Balitmore has the perfect mix of young talent (Gunnar Henderson and, more recently, Colton Cowser can be added to that group) and a veteran presence in its lineup, which includes Anthony Santander, Cedric Mullins and Ryan Mountcastle.
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It’s a group that is hungry to make the playoffs, and Jones sees them playing that style of baseball.
«They’re good, they’re rudimentary,» Jones said. «A lot of the guys I talk to say [the Orioles] just play the game well. They’re hard. You have to respect that.»
The Orioles have made the postseason just three times since 2000. But this team clearly doesn’t care about the past. They’re living in the present, and a postseason berth is what they’d get if the season ended today.
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Baltimore will try to make sure that remains the case as Game 162 comes to a close.