** Matt Snyder of CBSSports.com takes a semi-tongue-in-cheek look at the Orioles’ October travel plans after clinching a playoff spot:
Have you stayed with us before? Yes, but not this bunch. The Orioles franchise has three World Series titles, seven American League pennants, eight AL East championships and one wild-card appearance. But they haven’t been to the playoffs since 1997.Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, Jim Johnson, Robert Andino, Chris Davis and most of the pitching staff have never been to the playoffs. Mark Reynolds was on the ’07 Diamondbacks, Nate McLouth was on the ’10 Braves, J.J. Hardy has been to the post-season twice, Joe Saunders has been three times and Jim Thome is a post-season veteran.
** Ben Reiter of SI.com says there’s a different feel to the AL East title chase with the upstart Orioles in the hunt:
Even though the clubs ended Sunday tied atop the AL East, and even though Baltimore has not spent a single day alone in first place since early June, doesn’t it seem as if the Yankees are trying to keep pace with the Orioles, and not vice-versa?
... Even so a few factors suggest that the Yankees should emerge after Wednesday night as the division’s champions. One is that they will finish with three games at home against those broken, feckless (Red) Sox – and on Wednesday are set to receive the greatest gift any title hopeful can be given, a start by Daiuke Matuszaka – while the Orioles must play three in Tampa, where the Rays will still possess slim wild-card hopes (which will be extinguished with one more loss, or one more A’s win.)
** Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com says the Orioles have a couple of “secret weapons” for surviving postseason play:
Much has been made of the fact that only one Orioles pitcher, left-hander Wei-Yin Chen, will finish with more than 20 starts. But two Baltimore starters who became relievers, right-handers Tommy Hunter and Jake Arrieta, are proving to be major forces in their bullpen.
One rival official marveled that Hunter reached 100 mph in a recent outing against the Red Sox, according to brooksbaseball.net. Hunter, entering Saturday night, was averaging 95.3 mph as a reliever after averaging 90.8 mph as a starter – a jump of 4.5 mph. Not surprisingly, his swing-and-miss percentage had increased while his opponents’ slugging percentage had fallen.
Arrieta, meanwhile, is showing even more dramatic improvement in those two departments – but unlike Hunter, he actually is throwing fewer fastballs as a reliever and using his curveball and slider far more often – nearly 50 per cent of the time, in fact.