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Eye on the Tigers: Orioles face uphill battle chasing Detroit for No. 1 pick

Eye on the Tigers: Orioles face uphill battle chasing Detroit for No. 1 pick

It's an honor no team wants, but at this point in the season, Detroit and Baltimore have few goals more meaningful than earning the top overall pick in next year's draft.

Each team has roughly 25 games left on their schedules, but the Tigers find themselves with a four-game “lead” for the "top" spot the 2020 MLB Draft, awarded to this season’s worst team.

Is one month enough time for the O’s to earn a second straight top overall pick? If so, it would go a long way toward their return to contention. 

Not only would a league-worst record allow the Orioles their choice at the top of next year’s draft, but it would also likely give them the largest allotment of bonus pool money through the first ten rounds. This would allow them to take bigger swings at players considered tough signs, allowing the front office to prioritize talent over money.

So to break it all down, let’s take a look at the remaining series for each team.

Orioles

Games remaining: 25
Series: at Rays, vs Rangers, vs Dodgers, at Tigers, vs Blue Jays, vs Mariners, at Blue Jays, at Red Sox
Combined opponent winning percentage: .470 

This is a frontloaded September schedule. Both the Rays and Dodgers will be playing for the postseason, with Tampa Bay fighting for a spot and Los Angeles looking to solidify its top seed.

The back half of the schedule looks extremely easy, which could hurt the Orioles for next year’s draft. Only Boston has a chance of having something to play for among the final five series of the season, and even they enter the final month 5.5 games back in the AL Wild Card race.

Of course, one series stands out among all the rest: at Detroit, September 13-16. This four-game set will go a long, long way toward determining next year’s top draft pick.

Tigers

Games remaining: 27
Series: at Royals, at Athletics, vs Yankees, vs Orioles, at Indians, vs White Sox, vs Twins, at White Sox
Combined opponent winning percentage: .498

The Tigers’ schedule looks significantly more difficult than the Orioles’, with four series against true American League contenders in the Yankees, Athletics, Indians and Twins. Plus, each of the three is very likely to have something to play for, with the Yankees currently tied with Houston for the top seed in the AL, the A’s one game out of the Wild Card, and the Indians and Twins locked in a tight battle with each other to avoid the Wild Card altogether by winning the AL Central.

Beyond that, the Tigers face their fellow NL Central bottom-dwellers in the White Sox and Royals, two teams against which Detroit has combined for a 13-15 record this season. That’s nearly a third of their win total this season, so it’s possible they even win another series or two down the stretch.

As mentioned above, however, the obvious standout series remains those four games against the Orioles. The Tigers’ run-differential of -270 is even worse than the Orioles’ -245, and with their “lead” have to be considered favorites right now. But the Orioles will partially control their own destiny thanks to the schedule makers.

The Tigers earned the top pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, and the Orioles had their turn in 2019. Now, the two franchises are pitted against one another in a race for their second top pick in the last three seasons, with the future of each organization at stake. It may not be for the postseason, but for two rebuilding teams in desperate need of more stars, it’s just as compelling of a race.

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The most unbelievable catch of the Orioles' dismal season came in the team's final game

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The most unbelievable catch of the Orioles' dismal season came in the team's final game

It's not how you start, it's how you finish, and boy did Orioles right fielder Steve Wilkerson make sure the team went out with a bang against the Boston Red Sox.

Bottom of the eighth, game knotted at four, Jackie Bradley Jr. sent what seemed to be a moonshot to right field...

But what happens next is arguably the best catch of the entire MLB season. 

This catch by Wilkerson is nothing less than spectacular. Not only did he possess the focus to track the ball beyond the wall, but the athleticism to make the catch while almost tumbling over backwards into the crowd. 

This year may have been a huge let down for Baltimore, but here's to a bright spot heading into the offseason. 

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Orioles Roundup: Baltimore topples Blue Jays, 11-4

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Orioles Roundup: Baltimore topples Blue Jays, 11-4

The Orioles are now five games better than last season's woeful 47-115 record. While they continue to win meaningless games late in the season, their poor season won't go away. 

Player Notes:

Dylan Bundy gave up only two runs in seven innings pitched against the Blue Jays, bringing his season's ERA down to 4.79. 

Also, Trey Mancini went a perfect 5-5 in the Orioles win Tuesday night. He's now batting .373 against Toronto, hitting 25 of his 94 RBI this season against Toronto. Dwight Smith Jr. also impressed with a 3-4 showing, hitting a homer and three RBI of his own. 

Injuries: 

OF Mason Williams, knee, out indefinitely

RP Hunter Harvey, biceps, sidelined, day-to-day

RP Josh Rogers, elbow, 60-Day IL, out indefinitely 

SP Alex Cobb, back, 60-Day IL, 2020

Coming Up: 

Wednesday, Sept. 25: Orioles at Toronto, 7:07 p.m. at Rogers Centre

Thursday, Sept. 26: Orioles at Boston, 7:10 p.m. at Fenway Park

Friday, Sept. 27: Orioles at Boston, 1:05 p.m. at Fenway Park