As the Major League Baseball season advances towards the All-Star break, there is increasing focus on the Baltimore Orioles as they continue to sit near the top in the American League East standings, trailing the Tampa Bay Rays by only a few games.

Expectations are rising in Baltimore as the summer enters its second half. The question remains: Will the Orioles maintain their momentum and stave off the other powers in the division, advancing to their first playoff in seven years? Or will the 2022 season repeat itself? This article looks back at the turning point for the Orioles and how they’ve become a contender this season.

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Overview of the Orioles’ Current Standings

The Orioles sit at 54-35, just two games behind the Rays for first place in the AL East and tied with them in the loss column. The Orioles also have the second-best record in the American League and first place in the Wild Card standings. They are heading into the All-Star break on a five-game winning streak. Consequently, the Baltimore Orioles betting odds have become a point of discussion, suggesting experts believe the Orioles can keep this pace up throughout the season.

The Orioles have combined strategic finesse with a unified spirit to climb the league ranks. The current season is emerging as a significant one for the Orioles, potentially laying the groundwork for an engaging postseason. Considering their ongoing performance and the favorable betting odds, their 2nd place standing not only marks an accomplishment in the current season but also indicates the potential this team carries for continued strong performances in future years.

Looking Back at the Turnaround in 2022

The key to the change in fortunes lay in the Baltimore Orioles’ improved pitching. Both starters and relievers stepped up significantly in 2022, finishing with a team ERA of 3.97, their lowest since 2014. Also, the Orioles had one of the top farm systems in baseball; players that had developed in that system made their way up to the top, showcasing their young talent.

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General manager Mike Elias also made some more moves to build their future, trading away players like Trey Mancini and Jorge López at the deadline.  They also brought up top catching prospect Adley Rutschman, who has done nothing but shine since his MLB debut just over a season ago.

While securing a postseason spot in 2023 won’t be a walk in the park, the Orioles have shown they’re up to the challenge, especially with the 12-team format. They are still sporting an impressive 4.29 ERA this season. Overall, the Orioles will use the lessons they learned from a season ago, where they just missed out on the postseason, to finish strong in 2023.

5 Key Reasons for the 2023 Season

The Orioles are going into the All-Star break as one of baseball’s top teams. Here are five reasons why the team is excelling this season:

1. Increased Confidence Against the AL East

The Orioles have traditionally been easy beatings for the top teams in their division, particularly the Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays. But the 2023 season paints a different story. This year, the Orioles are 15-11 against their division counterparts. They’ve held their own against the team they’re trying to catch. They’re 3-2 against the Rays this season, but better yet, they still have eight games remaining against them, giving them plenty of time to play catch up.

2. Manager Brandon Hyde

Hyde has plenty of experience in baseball, having served as a catcher and first baseman in the minor leagues. He started coaching in 2003, holding multiple roles with the Chicago Cubs and the Florida Marlins before becoming the manager of the Orioles in 2019. Despite a challenging first three seasons where the team failed to win more than 54 games in any year, Hyde stayed committed to his plan. The team eventually bought in, leading to an 83-79 season in 2022. Thus far, they are on track to win over 90 games this season.

3. Adley Rutschman Is the Real Deal

Rutschman, a former Oregon State Player of the Year, has proven to be a significant asset to the team. The Orioles selected him with the first overall pick in the 2019 MLB draft, giving him a record signing bonus of $8.1 million. Since debuting last year, he’s played in 68 games and achieved a .265 batting average with 16 home runs and 49 RBIs while also posting great defensive numbers. Rutschman’s exceptional performance led him to win the 2022 Louis M. Hatter Most Valuable Oriole Award. Known for his defensive and hitting prowess, Rutschman is only the second Orioles catcher since 1990 to be selected for the All-Star Game.

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4. A Solid Bullpen

The Orioles bullpen has become an emblem of strength, critical in the team’s surprising success. Recognized as one of the most improved units in baseball, it ranks fifth in the American League in ERA. Closer Felix Bautista has emerged as a standout, striking out 50 batters in a mere 25 innings. They are sending two relievers to the All-Star Game and have posted a 3.58 ERA since 2022.

5. Austin Hays’ Comeback

Hays’ resurgence has been a notable narrative in the  Orioles’ journey. Since making his MLB debut in 2017, Hays has been a disappointing player for the Orioles outside of 2019, hitting over .300 just once in his career. But 2023 has proved a different story. The Orioles slugger was hitting .312 and was selected for this week’s All-Star Game. This season, Hays has demonstrated power at the plate, hitting eight home runs while driving in 34 runners and posting a .489 slugging percentage.

Second Half Outlook

Being a contender in 2023, the Orioles will likely be buyers at this year’s trade deadline rather than sellers. A power hitter acquired via trading prospects could add an extra pop to the lineup. They’ve already added some depth, signing veteran Adam Frazier to a one-year, $8 million deal. The team’s rich farm system provides the potential to promote top prospects during the second half of the season.

With many division games left, the Orioles have higher goals than just a Wild Card spot. They feel they have the roster to win the division for just the second time since 1997 and potentially win their first AL pennant since 1983.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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