On Tuesday night, the Baltimore Orioles flashed some of their 2012 magic against the New York Yankees at Camden Yards, winning on a 10th-inning walk-off homer hit by Nate McLouth after a battle of the bullpens. For last season's Orioles, who went 16-2 in extra-inning games and 29-9 in games decided by a single run, winning one-run games with walk-offs was a way of life. For Baltimore's 2013 squad, which entered last night 3-3 and 6-6 in such situations, respectively, those victories have been as difficult to come by as they are for the typical team.
"Run differential" was the frequent refrain in any conversation about the Orioles' success in 2012 and outlook for 2013. Good teams tend to outscore their opponents by a comfortable margin. The Orioles outscored their opponents, but barely -- their run differential was that of an 82-80 team. Opinions varied. Some said it was luck, while others credited a good bullpen or manager Buck Showalter.
After their 45th game of 2012, the Orioles were 28-17 and alone in first place in the AL East. Their odds of making the playoffs, according to Baseball Prospectus, stood at 33.5 percent. Today, through the same point in the schedule, they're 24-21 and tied with the Tampa Bay Rays for third. BP gives them a 12.5 percent chance of making it back to October. However, while the Orioles are in a worse position than they were a year ago, they might be a better team.