The Birds are back in the playoffs after a two-year break, only their third postseason trip since 1997. No one predicted Buck Showalter's club to win the AL East in the preseason, but here they are. So how did they do it? Here are five reasons Baltimore will be playing in October.
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Baltimore entered July 43-39, one game out of first. Then the Birds went 17-8 in July and 19-9 in August to pull away from the field. They only led the Blue Jays by 1½ games on the morning of Aug. 1, but Toronto fell out of the picture with a 9-17 month and Baltimore built a nine-game lead. Surprisingly, the Orioles never won more than four games in a row during the stretch, but they only lost consecutive games two times — a two-game skid and a three-game slide in mid-August.
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Behind (L-R) Adam Jones (25 homers), Nelson Cruz (39) and Chris Davis (26), the O's are hitting more homers than any major-league team — 25 more than the runner-up Colorado Rockies. In the hot month of August, Davis hit seven homers, while Cruz, who leads the majors, hit six. Plus, shortstop J.J. Hardy hit five with a .322 batting average. — Stats through Sept. 15.
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Has manager Buck Showalter been pushing all the right buttons or is it luck? The Orioles lose All-Star catcher Matt Wieters, who was hitting .308, to Tommy John surgery in early May, but in steps rookie Caleb Joseph, who managed to hit a homer in five consecutive games from Aug. 2-9. They lose All-Star Manny Machado, possibly the majors' best defensive third baseman, in early August to knee surgery, but the club hasn't skipped a beat. With that magic touch, the O's should survive Chris Davis' recent 25-game amphetamine (Adderall) suspension.
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Zach Britton (right) has turned into a reliable closer, saving 35 games in 39 chances through Sept. 15. The Orioles bullpen ranks third in ERA among AL teams. Meanwhile, the starters' ERA rank in the middle of the pack, but they've been healthy and they keep the team in games. Of their six starters, only Ubaldo Jimenez has an ERA worse than 3.75. — Stats through Sept. 15.
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Who doesn't love pie?
Forget the shaving cream pies. Adam Jones and the O's actually used real pies this season in postgame celebrations. From banana cream pies to orange cream pies, the Orioles don't skimp on flavor. A local pie shop in Baltimore approached the team about offering up two pies for every home game since some of the players complained about shaving cream burning their eyes in 2013. No word yet on whether other teams will be adopting this delicious new way of celebrating.