'We're one of those juggernauts': O's prove it on 5-1 AL East trip
NEW YORK -- This isn’t quite like the second half of the 2022 season anymore. The Orioles aren’t the surprise team seemingly coming out of nowhere to hang around in the postseason chase.
The 2023 O’s are legitimate contenders in the American League East. And they’re showing it every time they play traditional favorites such as the Yankees or Red Sox, or consistently talented squads like the Rays or Blue Jays.
“I think we’re one of the best teams,” right-hander Kyle Gibson said. “We’re one of those juggernauts.”
Baltimore continues to make statements that prove it, especially over the past week.
With a 3-1 victory at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night, the Orioles capped off a 5-1 American League East road trip, during which they swept three games in Toronto and took two of three in New York. Baltimore (33-17) -- which sits three games back of MLB-best Tampa Bay (37-15) in the division -- dropped Tuesday’s opener in the Bronx, then bounced back to win each of the past two nights in impressive fashion.
On Wednesday, the Orioles orchestrated their MLB-high 19th comeback win by erasing a four-run deficit with an eight-run seventh inning. On Thursday, they got a stellar showing from their pitching staff, paced by veteran leader Gibson.
In his previous outing last Friday, Gibson tossed seven innings of one-run ball vs. Toronto, helping Baltimore open the trip with a victory. The 35-year-old was even better against New York, pitching seven scoreless frames by scattering two singles and four walks.
Gibson improved to 3-1 with a 2.52 ERA in four starts against AL East rivals this season, the 11th of his MLB career.
“He’s got so much experience in the big leagues that environments don’t faze him,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
The Orioles gave Gibson all the necessary support. Their three runs came via a fifth-inning RBI single by Anthony Santander (3-for-3) and a two-run double high off the right-field wall by Austin Hays in the eighth. In relief, Mike Baumann worked a 1-2-3 eighth, while Yennier Cano pitched around a two-out RBI double by Willie Calhoun to earn his fourth save.
Before this road trip, Baltimore’s two previous series against division opponents came at Camden Yards against the Rays (May 8-10) and Red Sox (April 24-26). The O’s took two of three in each. Per the Elias Sports Bureau, it’s the first time the Orioles have won four straight series vs. AL East foes since June 14-July 17, 2016.
Until now, Baltimore hadn’t won consecutive series at Yankee Stadium since April 7-9 and June 20-22, 2014, per Elias.
It’s never easy to play in the Bronx -- or Boston, St. Petersburg or Toronto, for that matter.
“This year, it’s the AL Beast again,” Hays said. “It’s a dogfight every series you play in the AL East. This was just another one of those. You just try to find a way to win the game, no matter what it is. They’re the Yankees, and we know it’s going to be a tough matchup every time we play them.”
No contest during this six-game trip was simple for the Orioles. Only one was decided by more than four runs, and that was an 8-3 win over the Blue Jays on Sunday that required 11 innings -- the second of three straight games that went to extras for Baltimore.
No team is playing more close games than the O’s, who have had an MLB-high 46 of their 50 with a margin of four or fewer runs.
Yet, Baltimore is thriving and owns the second-best record in the big leagues after its impressive past week.
“We showed we’re just a gritty team,” Hyde said. “The way we won, too -- none of them were easy wins. Just really proud of our club, honestly.”
Gibson wasn’t part of the 2022 Orioles. Their performance helped persuade him to sign a one-year, $10 million contract with the club this past offseason.
It has since become increasingly obvious to Gibson why Baltimore -- a team still filled with a lot of less experienced players getting acclimated to the Majors -- is having success and has emerged as a threat in the AL East.
“They’re not fazed by any game situation -- losing, ahead in the seventh, whatever it might be,” Gibson said. “They’ve got a level head about themselves all the time. And that’s just kind of rare for a younger team. It’s allowing these guys to weather storms on slumps or not get too high when they’re playing really well.
“I think we knew from however long into Spring Training that we had a pretty good team. We’ve just put together a lot of really good games in a row.”