2014 Baltimore Orioles
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2014 Baltimore Orioles / Franchise: Baltimore Orioles / BR Team Page
- Clinched Division: September 16, 2014, vs. Toronto Blue Jays
Managed by Buck Showalter
History, Comments, Contributions
In a division in which all five teams could on paper compete for the title, the 2014 Baltimore Orioles were a bit of an afterthought in the pre-season forecasts. However, they hung with the leaders as no team managed to break out from the pack in April and May, and weathered a stretch when the Toronto Blue Jays built a bit of a lead in June. Their low point came on June 6th, when they were in 3rd place, 6 1/2 games back with a record of 30-29 and threatening to fall out of contention altogether. However, they began to play better after that and by July 3rd they had managed to catch the Blue Jays for a first-place tie in the AL East. From that point on, the Orioles steadily and systematically began to build their lead, taking advantage of the struggles of their division rivals. On August 20th, they were 9 games ahead of their closest pursuers, before being swept by the Chicago Cubs in only the third-ever series between the two teams at Wrigley Field on August 22-24.
The surge to a large first-place lead occurred in spite of limited contributions from four key players who had been counted on to be leaders when the season started. C Matt Wieters went down for the season in May after needing Tommy John surgery on his throwing shoulder, while 3B Manny Machado was limited to 82 games by different injuries, including knee surgery that ended his season in August. 1B Chris Davis, the team's best player in 2013, was healthy, but barely hitting above the Mendoza Line, while free agent signee Ubaldo Jimenez, looked upon as the staff ace, had been banished to the bullpen after picking up only 4 wins in 20 starts. Compensating were free agent OF Nelson Cruz, who was leading the American League in home runs, the always steady CF Adam Jones, and starters Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Tillman and Kevin Gausman. Zach Britton had also made a successful transition to the bullpen and was among the league leaders in saves.
The Orioles had a historical offensive performance against the Tampa Bay Rays on August 25th, when Nick Markakis and Steve Pearce hit back-to-back homers in the 3rd, and Delmon Young, J.J. Hardy and Chris Davis went yard consecutively in the 5th, in a 9-1 win. It was the first time an Orioles team had hit the two combinations in a single game. On August 30th, just before the final date to add players who can be eligible for the postseason roster, the Orioles addressed some depth issues by acquiring OF Alejandro De Aza from the Chicago White Sox for two minor leaguers, and IF Kelly Johnson from the Boston Red Sox for two players with big league experience, Jemile Weeks and Ivan DeJesus Jr. Also coming to the Orioles in the second deal was IF Michael Almanzar, who had been with the Birds in spring training as a Rule V draftee, but had been returned to Boston after failing to make the team. For Johnson, it was his third AL East team of the year, and he had now been with all five members of the division. The moves were par for the course for the Orioles, as they had already made a whopping 120 roster moves from Opening Day until September 1st, using the added roster flexibility allowed by Major League Baseball in recent years and various loopholes in the transaction rules to their fullest extent; then again, they had made 178 such moves in reaching the postseason two years earlier.
On September 12th, the Orioles took a big step towards clinching the AL East title when they swept the New York Yankees in a doubleheader, 2-1 and 5-0, but also received some bad news when Chris Davis was handed a 25-game suspension for testing positive for amphetamines. While not putting up eye-popping numbers, the slugger had filled in well at third base after Manny Machado was lost for the year. The Orioles were rolling by then and barely felt Davis's absence in the next few days with his replacement, journeyman Steve Pearce, providing plenty of offense in his stead. On September 16th, the Orioles clinched their first AL East title since 1997 when they defeated the Blue Jays, 8-2. They finished with a record of 96-66 and went on to sweep the Detroit Tigers in the Division Series, talking advantage of a couple of bullpen meltdowns. However, they ran into an unexpected juggernaut in the American League Championship Series as the upstart Kansas City Royals swept them in turn.
Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters
- AL Gold Glove: J.J. Hardy (SS), Adam Jones (CF) and Nick Markakis (RF)
- AL Manager of the Year Award: Buck Showalter
- Paul White: "Churn and burn: Orioles buck convention to dominate AL", USA Today Sports, September 2, 2014. 
- Associated Press: "Orioles clinch AL East with romp of Blue Jays, ninth win of 10", ESPN.com, September 17, 2014