Baltimore Orioles surging up the American League Wild Card standings

BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 28: Adam Jones /

The Baltimore Orioles standings continue to progress towards the final playoff berth in the American League Wild Card race.

The Baltimore Orioles are now only one and a half games out of a playoff spot, after a five-game winning streak against their direct competition.

Five games ago, Orioles fans weren’t very optimistic. The team just wasn’t playing great baseball. They were headed to Boston to play one of the best teams in the AL.

But, the Boston Red Sox are dealing with some injuries, and the Orioles didn’t have to face Chris Sale. They waltzed out of Fenway Park with a three-game sweep, no longer double digits behind in the AL East.

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Monday night, a see-saw battle against the Seattle Mariners ended up with the Orioles coming away victorious, 7-6.

The bullpen buckled a few times but never broke. A lot of base hits in the game were ground balls that found holes, and there were only a few hard-hit balls by Seattle. Walks were again a major problem for Chris Tillman.

The offense chugged right along, which is pretty standard at this point. This is the offense many expected all season, although maybe not the players performing.

Adam Jones became the first Orioles player, and the only active player to hit 25 home runs in seven straight seasons.

Trey Mancini is riding a hot streak, with 11 hits in his last 21 at-bats covering five games. The entire team had a hit on Monday, and Craig Gentry is starting to play well offensively.

But it wasn’t just about the offense in this one.

Tim Beckham had several highlight-reel plays, plays he might not make before the tutelage of J.J. Hardy.

Trey Mancini made a fantastic diving catch in left field to help set the tone in the first inning, which also featured a great play in the hole by Beckham.

Want more good news? Zach Britton had everything down on Monday night.

Sure, he walked a guy, but all of the pitches were in the bottom of the zone. And what did the next batter do? Hit into a double play to end the game. A strikeout and a double play is a familiar formula for Britton and Oriole fans.

Donnie Hart did a good job. Darren O’Day was back to his tricks of making it hard on himself and then escaping.

So, the big question, what does it all mean?

I don’t know. You tell me.

This is a team that has a lineup as formidable as anyone in the American League, especially if Chris Davis is hitting. Davis is 6 for 19 in his last five games.

Speaking of hitting, how much have you heard about Manny Machado‘s batting average recently? Absolutely nothing, because Manny is hitting .267, only 14 points off his career average.

The Orioles have six players with 20 plus home runs. No other team has more than four players with 20 plus (Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays). The Red Sox don’t have a single player with 20 home runs.

So, the Orioles are a powerful team.

They also are a pretty healthy team, as the September 1 roster expansion approaches.

One has to assume that J.J. Hardy will be back on Friday, if not before. That leaves no major players on the disabled list for the Orioles.

The Orioles only trail the New York Yankees by four and a half games for the first playoff spot in the AL Wild Card standings. They trail the Red Sox by eight games.

Sure, this team has only won five games, and it isn’t time to anoint them as being a contender. Let’s see how the rest of this homestand finishes, facing Toronto and New York after Seattle.

As always, a lot is going to depend on the starting pitching. Dylan Bundy on his extra rest looks like the pitcher from the beginning of the year, which is a good thing.

Kevin Gausman looks like the pitcher from the second half of 2016, which is a good thing.

Despite the high pitch counts, Wade Miley has shown signs of being closer to the pitcher he was to start 2017, which is a great thing.

Ubaldo Jimenez remains one of the most enigmatic pitchers in the game, and I don’t know what else to say there.

Tillman has shown signs of improvement, despite his overall performance not showing it.

Jeremy Hellickson has mixed good performances and a high propensity to allow home runs, a problem when pitching in Camden Yards.

The bullpen has been fatigued and overused, but enhancements are coming in a few days by the return of some pitchers who have helped throughout the year.  Long reliever Logan Verrett, Richard Bleier and Alec Asher are expected to return.

The Baltimore Orioles will continue this surge as far as their inconsistent play takes them. Throughout 2017, the pitching has been inconsistent, and the offense has struggled at times too.

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But, if this team is going to get on a roll, the dog days of summer are a great time to do it.

If nothing else, the Baltimore Orioles appear poised to play meaningful baseball down the stretch of the 2017 season.