The Baltimore Orioles Will Go as Far as Their Pitching Takes Them


The Baltimore Orioles are getting ready for the 2014 MLB playoffs, where they will take on the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 on Thursday. The time will be either at 5:37 or 6:07 pm depending on who wins the one-game wild card match ups.

Everyone talks about keys to victory, listing four or five of the main ones. However, I’m jumping right to one main point. The key to victory is pitching.

I am putting an emphasis on the starting staff, but the bullpen is vital as well. The Orioles held the seventh-best team-ERA in the majors and the third-best in the American League this year. Considering that three of their relief-pitchers had ERA’s of under 2.00, they are probably responsible for a good part of that impressive number.

There have been some surprises among the usual suspects. Zach Britton waited in line for his chance to become the closer. First it was Jim Johnson, but he got traded to Oakland a few months before the season started. Then Tommy Hunter got the call, but after blowing three saves in a row, the O’s gave the role to Britton and never looked back.

Sep 23, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Zach Britton (53) celebrates with catcher

Nick Hundley

(40) after defeating the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. The Orioles defeated the Yankees 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Britton pitched 76.1 innings this year with an ERA of 1.65 while completing 37 saves out of his 41 attempts and striking out 62. We all knew that Britton had potential to be a good MLB player right when he came into the league. He pitched at least six innings in nine of his first ten career starts in 2011 and only allowed more than three runs in one of those starts. Seeing him succeed isn’t a total surprise to Orioles fans.

However, the extent of his success is a bit surprising. He is shutting down hitters, whether they’re left-handed or right-handed, like it’s easy. He has been close to unhitable this year, as have his fellow mates in the bullpen – Andrew Miller and Darren O’Day. They both have ERA’s of under 2.0, and the three form what is probably the best 7th-8th-9th inning combo in the league.

Even with all that said, the starting pitching will be the real key throughout this playoff run. The Orioles have arguably had the best five-man-rotation in the league since the All Star break, with all five pitchers performing exceedingly well.

Unfortunately for youngster Kevin Gausman, he will not be included in the four-man-rotation the Orioles will feature in the playoffs, solely due to how good the other four guys have been. Each of those four pitchers have ERA’s under 3.80 and two of them have over 15 wins (Chris Tillman and Wei-Yin Chen).

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That all sounds great, and they have been lights out, but here’s my problem: Will the spectacular pitching carry into the playoffs?

All these guys are very talented but most of them are young and inexperienced. I personally don’t think it’s possible for the Orioles staff to continue pitching at such a high level, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be great. They can be great, but not close to perfect like they have been.

If the four pitchers do continue to perform the same way in October that they did in July, August, and September, then there is no doubt in my mind that Game 1 of the 2014 World Series will take place in Baltimore, Maryland.