Orioles playing better than anyone expected at quarter mark of 2020 season


On the first night of the Orioles’ season in Boston a few weeks ago, the Orioles 2020 campaign was off to a horrendous, and at the time, predictable start.

They were blown out by the Red Sox, and though it was just Opening Day, the longest possible 60-game season looked like it could be in order for baseball’s worst team in 2018, and second-worst in 2019.

But the Orioles rebounded to win the next two games, then after being swept by the Yankees, swept the Rays in a three-game set. They’ve been up-and-down all year, but through a quarter of the season, the Orioles are 8-7 and where no one thought they’d be: In a playoff spot.

“When the bats haven’t been there, our pitching staff has stepped up,” Austin Hays said after a wild comeback win Tuesday in Philadelphia. “We continue to pick each other up no matter what. That’s what makes the game fun - when you know that you can trust the teammate that’s next to you. This season has been crazy from the 2-1 games to the 11-10 games. Last year and the year before, we had a lot of one-run games where we couldn’t find a way to pull through and get the win. This year has been a very different story.”

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The 2020 season has presented a lot of quirky, mostly overused, sample-size cliches no one thought possible just a few months ago.

For example: The Orioles, on Aug. 12, are over .500. And that’s good enough in 2020 for a playoff spot at the quarter-pole of a shortened season.

As of now, the Orioles are in third place in the AL East behind the Yankees and Rays. But with each division winner and then five wild card teams, the Orioles would be the eighth and final team in the American League playoffs. And there’s still positive signs on the horizon. 

The Orioles will finish the week with two more games against the Phillies, then three games against the Nationals over the weekend, which includes a continuation of Sunday’s game, a game they’re leading in the sixth inning.

Essentially, if the Orioles finish their victory off from Sunday, even a 2-3 record the rest of the week means they’ll start next Monday at 11-10 — more than a third of the way through the season.

The Orioles’ record, were this to be a full season, is extrapolated out to roughly 21-19. If that were the case, there certainly would be cause for cautious optimism no matter how long it lasts. 

As of Wednesday afternoon, the Orioles have the second-best batting average in the league (.260), the sixth-best on-base percentage (.331) and the second-best slugging percentage (.457) in all of baseball. Their team ERA is 4.43, which is 21st in the league, but the offense has been good enough to lift the pitching staff. 

Will those numbers regress, eventually hanging the pitching staff out to dry without run support? Probably — Jose Iglesias is still batting .395 and Hanser Alberto is batting .348, both of which figure to come down in upcoming days and weeks. In a 60-game season, though, sample sizes rule the league.

But at least for now, the Orioles have been a fun surprise throughout all of baseball. And in a shortened season, that’s all it takes to make a run.

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