May 20, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Baltimore Orioles left fielder Nelson Cruz (23) celebrates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the fifth inning at PNC Park. The Orioles won 9-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles: Three Keys to the Crown

The Baltimore Orioles hold a strong lead in the American League East, and there are some strong keys in their play that look toward a divisional crown for the first time in years.

Along with already doing these things, if the Orioles continue to do them, I believe the division is well in their hands.

1. Pitching

The Orioles’ starting and relief pitching has been excellent, and has helped push the AL East lead to eight and a half games above the second place team, which has been the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays at different points.

Despite Wei-Yin Chen being atop my rankings for the Orioles’ starters, the Orioles need Chris Tillman and Bud Norris to keep pitching as well as they have recently.

In 13 starts since the All-Star break, Tillman and Norris are a combined 7-1 with an ERA of 2.52 between the two pitchers. They have a combined WHIP of 1.01.

Both pitchers have been dominating and have certainly led the charge for this strong Orioles’ pitching staff.

There is one key to continue this success, which the Orioles had no choice to follow until recently, and that is to not allow Ubaldo Jimenez to start.

“Jimenez is only hurting the Orioles as a team”

He may have $43 million contract, but he is not worth the money. Jimenez is only hurting the Orioles as a team, and is not helping the bullpen with his short starts.

As of now, the Orioles have moved Jimenez from a starting role to the bullpen. Before this, an injury kept Jimenez from starting, and in that time, the Orioles’ pitchers began their current stretch of dominance.

Unless he proves he can be consistent while in the bullpen, he should not be allowed to start again this year.

2. Offense

The Orioles offense has been hitting the ball well with 44 home runs since the All-Star break, which leads all of baseball.

However, as much as I do not like to say it and see them rely upon it, the Orioles need to continue to hit the home run ball. The offense cannot produce wins without home runs, so even though I do not like it, the Orioles need to depend upon home runs to win.

Fortunately for the Orioles, they excel in hitting home runs; and if they are going to extend their division lead going into the dreadful September schedule, home runs are going to help push them forward.

“These extra-base hits not only score runs, but keep runners on base to keep pressure on the opposing pitchers”

Along with the home runs, the Orioles are simply getting extra-base hits. These extra-base hits not only score runs, but keep runners on base to keep pressure on the opposing pitchers.

They may not be using small ball to score runs, but the Orioles have been hitting more doubles and running the bases well. The home runs are a big part of the offense, but the other extra-base hits are showing up more and more.

A sign of a strong team has been aggressive base running. The Orioles are scoring from first on doubles and scoring from second on singles, because they are aggressive and recognize who the outfielders are so they can successfully do this.

3. AL East Dominance

The Orioles have had a consistent dominance over their division rivals, and with the 27 games against them through the rest of the season, this trend will secure the Orioles the division crown.

14 of those games are against the Yankees or Blue Jays, which as they are both more than eight games back, the Orioles can easily knock them out of contention.

The Orioles have a 30-19 record against the AL East with 56 home runs while allowing 52. The offense has scored 217 runs against their own division, with only the Blue Jays scoring more runs than the Orioles in the season series so far.

The Orioles pitching has an overall 3.42 ERA against the AL East. The Blue Jays are the only team that the Orioles have an ERA higher than four against.

“There is no way they cannot take the division”

In the search for the division crown, if the Orioles win a majority of their games against the AL East, there is no way they cannot take the division.

These three things have allowed the Orioles to begin to run away with the AL East. And if they continue to do them, the Orioles are well on their way to the divisional crown.

Tags: Baltimore Orioles

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