Orioles reset: Baltimore’s depth fueled its best regular season in decades. Now comes the real test.

Judging by regular-season wins and losses, Mike Elias has constructed Baltimore’s greatest roster in his lifetime.

But these Orioles need to be evaluated by greater than that. Later this month, they may get the prospect.

The Orioles’ 101 victories mark the franchise’s most within the 162-game common season since 1979, three years earlier than Elias, their govt vp and common supervisor, was born. Months earlier than his first birthday, a Baltimore workforce that gained 98 video games added seven extra in October to grow to be the 1983 World Series champion. The Orioles haven’t hung a pennant since.

This group can finish that four-decade drought. Elias has constructed an overwhelmingly deep roster, nailing his early-round draft picks, making savvy veteran additions and executing under-the-radar trades that paid off exceptionally. En path to profitable the American League East, Baltimore posted a profitable document in opposition to the entire different 4 groups in what’s considered baseball’s most difficult division.

“The American League East is not fun,” Elias mentioned. “One of the benefits of it is it prepares you for everything. They’ve had everything thrown at them the last five years, you can imagine. They’re as prepared as anybody.”

The Orioles’ knack for having a distinct hero every evening has fueled their successes over the previous six months. Now comes the query of the way it will fare in the remainder of this one.

“That’s been one of our strengths this year: our versatility and our depth,” supervisor Brandon Hyde mentioned. “Just having the most depth you can have is so key in a six-month season.”

But the worth it supplies in a five- or seven-game sequence will decide how far the Orioles go within the playoffs. Throughout the season, Hyde has rotated who begins on the infield and outfield to maintain gamers contemporary and used matchups along with his bullpen and bench to place them in advantageous positions. The worth within the former is decreased in a postseason matchup with intermittent days off, however the latter turns into important.

“There’s different things I can do to try to help us win a game,” Hyde mentioned. “I have pieces I can play with.”

Plenty of them. The bullpen is loaded with arms with various specialties, even when All-Star nearer Félix Bautista’s upcoming Tommy John elbow reconstruction will forestall his high-strikeout arsenal from being accessible. Offensively, Hyde has mentioned usually this 12 months that he has 13 hitters he desires to play. That solely resulted in September, when expanded rosters upped his acknowledged worth.

“It’s not one through nine,” outfielder Austin Hays mentioned. “It’s one through 14.”

The method has meant whilst some Orioles hitters have slumped, others have been on scorching streaks. The membership has hardly ever gone chilly without delay; Baltimore has performed 91 straight multigame sequence with out being swept, an AL document. But regardless of their success in mixture, the Orioles lack a hitter who stands among the many sport’s greatest. Entering Sunday’s regular-season finale, 361 hitters had come to the plate no less than 200 instances this season, and no Orioles ranked within the prime 50 in OPS. But 4 appeared within the prime 100, and 9 have been within the prime 200.

“We’ve had a different guy step up each and every night,” veteran backup catcher James McCann mentioned. “We’re not relying on just one guy to hit the big homer or drive in the big run.”

Perhaps one in every of their rising stars having fun with a late surge will construct on it. After struggling in his first 30 video games, infielder Gunnar Henderson has since hit 25 house runs with an .851 OPS to reestablish himself as the favourite to be AL Rookie of the Year. Last 12 months’s runner-up for that honor, catcher Adley Rutschman has held the standing of being the face of the group since he was chosen atop the 2019 draft and has lived as much as the billing. His transformative influence might bleed into October, particularly after he batted .290/.409/.516 in September. First baseman Ryan Mountcastle entered Sunday hitting .330 with a .908 OPS in 54 video games after getting back from a monthlong absence with vertigo.

That’s to not point out outfielders Hays, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander — among the many few gamers who appeared for Hyde’s first three Orioles groups and are actually a part of this one — or Ryan O’Hearn and Aaron Hicks, reduce unfastened by their earlier organizations solely to thrive in Baltimore. Along with McCann, Hyde’s postseason choices might additionally embody second baseman Adam Frazier, who has proven a knack for coming by way of within the clutch; rookies Jordan Westburg and Heston Kjerstad, who’ve rapidly tailored to the challenges of the most important leagues; versatile infielders Ramón Urías and Jorge Mateo, each expert defenders with the latter being one of many quickest gamers within the majors.

Among these 14 gamers are three switch-hitters, 5 left-handed bats and 6 who hit from the correct aspect, affording Hyde steadiness and depth.

“You look down in our dugout, anytime there’s a pitching change, man, there’s three guys standing by the bat rack ready to roll,” McCann mentioned.

It shall be intriguing to see how Hyde deploys lineups within the postseason; Mateo has began all however 4 of the Orioles’ 53 video games this season in opposition to left-handed starters, however having him begin negates Hyde’s potential to make use of his velocity in a key state of affairs.

“He gets on base, he scores,” Hyde has mentioned, however placing Mateo on as a pinch-runner would enhance that risk.

Several machinations exist on the pitching aspect, too. Kyle Bradish and Grayson Rodriguez, who ranked first and third within the AL in second-half ERA, appear assured rotation spots, with John Means’ efficiency since getting back from Tommy John elbow reconstruction possible placing him in the identical class.

“Probably one of the most complete teams you’re gonna find,” Bradish mentioned. “It’ll be fun.”

The days off throughout the ALDS sequence will let Baltimore use no less than one in every of its beginning pitchers as a reliever, reinforcing a unit that has handled a hefty workload down the stretch. Since shedding Bautista in late August, the Orioles’ bullpen has, on the floor, pitched simply as nicely, with a 3.54 ERA since Bautista went on the injured checklist after placing up a 3.55 mark with him wholesome — although its collective strikeout charge has fallen from 26.5% to twenty.1% in that span.

Regardless, it stays a flexible group that enables Hyde to make use of every pitcher in spots he believes they may have probably the most success. It’s anticipated the Orioles’ postseason bullpen will embody three left-handers with various ability units in Danny Coulombe, Cionel Pérez and DL Hall, which means Hyde may be aggressive early by bringing one in to face a left-handed hitter with out essentially hampering his choices for later in video games.

“It’s three different left-handers,” Hyde mentioned, “and I like all of them.”

Three of the right-handers in Hyde’s bullpen — Yennier Cano, Tyler Wells and Jacob Webb — have been efficient in opposition to each right-handed and left-handed hitters. The last spots will belong to one of many Orioles’ starters, presumably Dean Kremer or Kyle Gibson, with the likelihood solely one in every of Baltimore’s two commerce deadline acquisitions, Jack Flaherty and Shintaro Fujinami, make the roster after each struggled to seek out consistency.

In the identical approach the Orioles’ offensive method isn’t constructed round one participant, the identical has been true of their bullpen since Bautista’s damage. Hyde will proceed to combine and match as he sees match to get by way of postseason video games, with the Orioles managing to go 21-13 — a 100-win tempo — with out Bautista. In that span, they’ve misplaced just one sequence.

Winning three extra will deliver a title to Baltimore.

What’s to come back?

Holding the AL’s greatest document, the Orioles get 5 days off earlier than they start postseason play Saturday with Game 1 of the ALDS. The membership will take Monday off completely — Camden Yards is internet hosting a public memorial for franchise icon Brooks Robinson — earlier than training every of the subsequent 4 days, simulating sport motion and finalizing roster choices.

Aspects of the Orioles’ ALDS roster shall be decided by who their opponent is, which shall be both the Tampa Bay Rays or the Texas Rangers, the highest two wild-card groups who play a best-of-three sequence this week. Baltimore was 8-5 in opposition to Tampa Bay however had an excellent run differential; solely a kind of eight victories got here by greater than two runs. The Orioles cut up their six video games with the Rangers, all of which got here earlier than June.

What was good?

The Orioles entered final week having performed 17 straight video games. Their day without work final Monday appeared to be the reset the bullpen wanted.

Also benefiting from some longer begins out of the rotation, Baltimore’s relievers allowed 4 earned runs in 21 2/3 innings — a 1.66 ERA — with a sub-1.000 WHIP throughout final week’s six video games. Notably, the group almost struck out a 3rd of opposing hitters, a much-needed uptick.

The bullpen formally misplaced Bautista for the remainder of the season final week. It rallied round him, a welcome signal heading into the postseason.

What wasn’t?

Thursday was, in Elias’ phrases, “one of the best nights in Orioles history.” It’s unlucky half of what was value celebrating was an exaggeration.

Six innings earlier than the Orioles beat the Boston Red Sox to clinch the AL East, CEO and Chairman John Angelos appeared alongside Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on the scoreboard saying a “deal” that will maintain the workforce in Baltimore for the subsequent three many years.

“Earlier today, the Orioles, Gov. Wes Moore and the State of Maryland, and the Maryland Stadium Authority agreed to a deal that will keep the Orioles in Baltimore and at Camden Yards for at least the next 30 years!!” the scoreboard announcement learn.

Given the midgame fanfare, it’s comprehensible that anybody who learn that will suppose the Orioles’ lease saga had lastly been resolved. But, as the edges revealed Friday morning, it seems the “deal” was a nonbinding memorandum of understanding and that the present settlement nonetheless expires Dec. 31, with a lot nonetheless to be resolved earlier than then.

“It just seems a little dirty,” Rob Barron, an Orioles fan from Ellicott City, mentioned on the Camden Yards concourse earlier than Friday’s sport, a sentiment that was echoed among the many fan base.

The victory lap on the scoreboard tugged consideration away from the signature second of this breakout workforce’s large season, just for it to be walked again the morning after. It’s good that the state and workforce are making continued progress, however how about holding updates off the scoreboard till the precise lease is finished?

On the farm

The Orioles weren’t the one workforce within the group that did some celebrating final week.

The Norfolk Tides gained the International League and Triple-A championships with a roster that includes 9 of Baltimore’s prime 14 prospects, in response to Baseball America. The Tides have been a pressure all through the season, changing one prime prospect with one other every time the Orioles got here calling.

Between the Tides’ titles, Hyde famous that each profitable and improvement are necessary within the higher minors.

“For me, it goes hand in hand,” Hyde mentioned. “I’ve always been a believer in winning in the minor leagues always helps in developing a winning mindset. I think that when you’re winning in the minor leagues, that means players are playing well, also, and it’s just not a maybe a couple prospects but a collective group, and I think that that helps motivate. Playing in postseason games in the minor leagues, I’ve managed some, you feel pressure, you feel like you want to win and you come to the park with anticipation, and it’s just not development at that point because you’re trying to win games. All that’s been very beneficial.”

ALDS, Game 1

Rays/Rangers at Orioles

Saturday, TBA

TV: Fox or FS1

Radio: 97.9 FM, 101.5 FM, 1090 AM