News & Politics

Your Postseason Guide to the Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore is going to the playoffs for the first time in seven years. Here's what you need to know.

Photograph by Maryland GovPics/Flickr.

For the past seven years, there has not been a lot to write home about for the Major League Baseball team about 45 minutes north of DC on I-95. But that’s changed this season—in a big way. While the Washington Nationals are far removed from the playoff picture, the Baltimore Orioles are entering the postseason as a legitimate World Series contender. As such, it’s the perfect time to jump on the O’s bandwagon. Here’s what you need to know:

What’s the big deal about the O’s making the playoffs?

Since 2000, the Orioles have been .500 or worse in 18 of 24 seasons. In 2016, the last time the franchise made the postseason, they lost a heartbreaking one-game playoff to the Toronto Blue Jays when manager Buck Showalter agonizingly refused to use all-star closer Zack Britton.

Between 2018 and 2021, the rebuilding Orioles were arguably the worst team in baseball, losing over 100 games every year (except for the pandemic-shortened 2020 season). In 2022, things started to break right as a few of the team’s heralded top prospects graduated to the majors and the Orioles surprised prognosticators by finishing 83-79. This season, the team has been dominant, posting the best record in the American League despite the third-lowest payroll in MLB.

What does the playoff picture look like right now?

As of this writing, the Orioles are 97-59 and have clinched a general playoff spot. They sit 2.5 games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays (the second best record in the AL) in the American League East. Winning the AL East would be huge—not just for prestige, but because of the postseason ramifications.

If the Orioles lose the division to Tampa Bay—Baseball Prospectus currently has the Orioles with a 89.3% chance to hold—they would enter three-game playoff series against another wild card team. If the Orioles win the division, they would skip that series and go straight to the American League Division Series.

Who are the team’s stars to root for?

The Orioles have enjoyed a number of strong contributors this season—from expected producers like outfielders Anthony Santander and Cedric Mullins to unexpected standouts such as first baseman Ryan O’Hearn and all-star reliever Yennier Cano.

The team’s core, however, is the young trio of catcher Adley Rutschman, infielder Gunnar Henderson, and pitcher Grayson Rodriguez. Rutschman has been the face of Baltimore’s rebuild. He’s had an excellent year at the plate, hitting .276 with 19 homers while playing phenomenal defense. Rutschman was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2019, and the team has since been waiting for him to mature and arrive for its fortunes to turn around. That time is now.

Yet as good as Rutschman has been this year, Henderson has maybe been even better. A highly-rated prospect like Rutschman, he figures to run away with this season’s AL Rookie of the Year award, hitting .258 with 27 homers and playing highlight-reel defense.

Rodriguez, now the team’s ace starting pitcher, was actually very bad early in the year—in fact, he was demoted back to the minor leagues. But since returning to Baltimore in July, he’s been nothing short of dominant.

What else should I know about the team to sound like an expert?

The Orioles have two critical injuries to be aware of. Ryan Mountcastle, the team’s power-hitting first baseman, is dealing with a shoulder injury. Early in the year, Mountcastle dealt with vertigo and really struggled because of it, but since getting that figured out, he’s been a mainstay in the middle of the lineup.

Then there’s Felix Bautista. Prior to going down with a partial tear to his UCL on August 25, Bautista had been the very best reliever in all of baseball—the most reliable, intimidating closer in the game. While it still seems unlikely, the team has not ruled him out for the postseason and he has been spotted throwing prior to games.

If I go to a playoff game, what traditions do I need to know?

Three things stand out. First, scream ‘O’ during the National Anthem when it gets to the part: “⁠O! say does that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave.” Second, learn the lyrics to ‘Thank God I’m a Country Boy” for the seventh-inning stretch—John Denver’s song has been playing at Orioles game since the ’70s. Third, get really into the animated hot dog race between ketchup, relish, and mustard. People go crazy for this, to the point of dressing up as their favorite hot dog and even betting on the races (just for fun, obviously).

What’s the deal with the water?

A new trend in MLB is for teams to have coordinated dugout home run celebrations. Last year, the Orioles had a big chain they put on whenever someone hit a home run. This year, the team starting drinking water from a “homer hose” whenever a player goes yard.

Thought to be created by Orioles pitcher Cole Irvin (now in the minor leagues), the homer hose looks something like a beer bong you might see on a college campus. But with it, the team has embraced the water celebration, creating a whole section in left field called the “bird bath” that gets sprayed with super soakers whenever the team gets an extra base hit.

What should you eat and drink at an Orioles game?

Camden Yards is the best ballpark in the major leagues, and I won’t hear anybody say otherwise. It’s got great character, great food, and not a bad seat in the park. If you’re having one meal there, you have to hit up Boog’s Barbeque. Owned by former Orioles all-star outfielder Boog Powell, it’s been a staple since 1992 and it’s absolutely delicious. If you want to get drinks before the game, check out Pickle’s Pub. It’s been right next to Camden Yards since the park opened, and will be packed with fans before the game.

Jacob Raim
Director, Digital Products