MLBits: October O's? Braves Catching Mets, Greinke's 50K Pitches, Royals Trade, All-Star Jerseys, More

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MLBits: October O’s? Braves Catching Mets, Greinke’s 50K Pitches, Royals Trade, All-Star Jerseys, More

Chicago Cubs

There’s some magic happening in Baltimore right now, and it’s one of the most entertaining stories to follow this season.

October O’s?

I like to open MLBits with the biggest story of the weekend around baseball, and wildly enough, the Baltimore Orioles are the lead today after they wrapped up a four-game sweep of the Angels at Camden Yards on Sunday afternoon.

“It’s crazy,” said Orioles’ first baseman Ryan Mountcastle after the O’s 9-5 win over the Halos. “I mean, it seems like each and every day, we just go out there and we’re gonna win. I don’t know. It’s just this weird aura or vibe.

“I don’t know what’s going on; but it’s awesome.”

We’re all Ryan Mountcastle right now. We have no idea what’s going on in Baltimore, but it’s sure shaping up to be one of the more enjoyable stories in baseball this season.

Sunday’s win over Los Angeles completed the four-game sweep and marked their eighth consecutive victory and a perfect homestand. The O’s are now just one game under .500 (43-44) and two and a half games out of the third and final Wild Card spot in the American League as we close in on the All-Star break.

The Orioles’ eight-game winning streak is their longest since 2005, and if they can defeat the Cubs when they open their series tomorrow, they’ll have their first nine-game winning streak since they won 13 straight in 1999. I was nine years old in 1999. I’m 32 with two kids older than I was the last time the Orioles won nine or more straight games. Tell me this isn’t a fun story for baseball.

Maybe the Orioles don’t end up in October; even so, this is a far cry from the three 100-loss seasons we’ve seen Baltimore rattle off in the last four seasons. The Orioles are here to stay as well. They’ve got a young roster with no shortage of talent, baseball’s top-ranked farm system, four top-100 prospects, and the No. 1 pick in Sunday’s MLB Draft in tow. The Orioles also have plenty of money to spend when the time arrives.

The AL East is already a dog fight with the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, and Blue Jays all above .500. The Orioles can win two more games, and the AL East would become the only division in baseball with all five teams over .500 this season. The last time we saw a division end the season with all teams at .500 or better was 2005 when the NL East accomplished the feat with the Braves (90-72) winning the division and the Nationals (81-81) finishing in last place. Previous to that, the old AL West (Twins, White Sox, Rangers, Athletics, Mariners, Royals, and Angels) did it in 1991 with the Twins (95-67) winning the division and the Angels (81-81) finishing in last place.

Jorge Lopez Makes All-Star Game

Sticking with the Orioles, Baltimore will only send one player to the All-Star game this weekend, but it’s a remarkable story nonetheless.

After amassing an 11-29 record and a 6.36 ERA in six seasons as a starter, Jorge Lopez was designated for assignment by the Kansas City Royals in 2020. In his first full season with the O’s last year, Lopez’s 6.07 ERA was the highest in baseball. The Orioles moved the 29-year-old to the bullpen before the start of the season, and now he’s heading to the MLB All-Star Game with 16 saves and a 1.76 ERA to boot.

Riley Walks It Off, Braves Stay Hot

Austin Riley was the hero for the Braves on Sunday, not once but twice, as they walked off their way to a series sweep of the Washington Nationals. After Lane Thomas drilled a three-run pinch-hit home run in the sixth inning to give the Nationals a 3-2 lead, Riley drilled a game-tying 410-foot home run to even things up in the bottom of the eighth inning.

Four innings later, Riley delivered again:

The Braves have won each of their last four series, and Sunday’s walk-off victory over the Nats pulled them within a game and a half of the Mets for first place in the NL East. After going 21-6 in June, the Braves haven’t skipped a beat, winning 8-of-10 to start July and are 29-8 since June 1. The Braves will send five players to the All-Star Game this weekend.

Ronald Acuña Jr. (leading NL vote-getter), Dansby Swanson (narrowly lost to Trea Turner for starting spot), William Contreras, Travis d’Arnaud, and Max Fried will all make their first All-Star Game appearances. The five All-Star selections for the Braves are tied for the most in franchise history and for the first time since they did so in 2011.

Max Fried and his 9-2 record head to Los Angeles as a strong candidate to start for the NL team this weekend. We’ve talked about it a few times in this space; who should be the starter. Fried’s 2.52 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 100 strikeouts give him a strong resume. Fried’s skipper making the call gives him another potential advantage. Still, Sandy Alcántara may be the most deserving of the thick group that features more names beyond Alcántara and Fried, such as Rodón, Gonsolin, and more.

One Brave not heading to Chavez Ravine is Sunday’s hero, Austin Riley. Riley is red-hot over his last seven, hitting .448 with three home runs. Riley ranks 10th in baseball in hits (94), 11th in RBIs (56), fifth in home runs (23), eighth in slugging percentage (.559), and ninth in OPS (.908) this season. Unfortunately for Riley, Manny Machado (4.5 fWAR) and Nolan Arenado (4.3 fWAR) are having monster seasons at the same position as Riley.

FYI: Max Scherzer and Max Fried square off tonight in a battle of the Max’s when the Mets and Braves open a HUGE series in Atlanta tonight. You can tune in on FS1 with first pitch set for 6:20 (ct).

Odds and Ends …

  • Zack Greinke joined the 50,000 pitch club on Sunday, and as you would imagine, he didn’t care much when reporters shared the news with him after the game.
  • A minor trade this morning between the Braves and Royals features a rare draft pick as a part of the package, which is allowed only on competitive balance picks. Jeff Passan sorted it all out in a thread:
  • There were plenty of ASG snubs, but this one, in particular, was probably more a product of the White Sox sucking than anything else:
  • The Mariners capped a four-game sweep of the Blue Jays on Sunday and are on an eight-game winning streak, and are now tied for an AL Wild Card spot.
  • This is pretty darn cool!
  • The Yankees lead MLBs power rankings again this week:
  • Here’s a look at the ASG jerseys, and once again, I am begging that MLB returns to the players wearing their team’s jersey with the ASG patch on the sleeve!

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Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is the Lead NFL Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.