Seems like whenever I see nostalgic posts about the 2012-16 era, there’s all this good feeling about 2012 and 2014, but with 2016 all anybody ever brings up is Buck not using Zach Britton in the playoff game. But to me, 2016 was a really fun year that’s now very underrated.
– We were coming off an 81-81 campaign in which we had to win our final six games just to reach .500, and those wins came against teams that had clinched playoff spots and didn’t really care.
– We had lost Wei-Yin Chen in the offseason, and replaced him with Yovanni Gallardo, a move that was questioned by many.
– We seemingly had signed Dexter Fowler to a very favorable deal, only to have the Cubs woo him away at the last minute.
So, the mood that spring was pretty mixed. I wouldn’t say expectations were very high, despite having extended Davis and O’Day, traded for Trumbo and brought over the mysterious Hyun Soo Kim from Korea. But here’s what happened:
– The team started off red hot, winning its first 7 games. Every time the team would sink towards .500 in the first half, the Birds would rip off another winning streak. In the first 77 games, the O’s had three 7-game win streaks and another stretch where they won 8 of 9.
– The team was bipolar in July, suffering losing streaks of 5, 4 and 5 games sandwiching winning streaks of 4 and 5.
– It looked like the team was fading away in August. It fell from a season high 18 games over .500 on July 25 to only 11 over by August 31.
– But the team pulled it together in September, going 17-12 and finishing 7-2 and closing the year with series wins against Toronto and New York. It took until the final day to guarantee our spot in the Wild Card game and to learn whether we would play at home or on the road.
Some of the individual highlights:
– Zach Britton was unhittable, and went 47 for 47 in save opportunities. We needed every one to secure our playoff spot.
– Mark Trumbo led the league with 47 dingers.
– Matt Wieters, who ticked off a lot of fans by accepting his QO, had a bunch of very crucial, high leverage hits, including a game winning single on Opening Day, two homers in the regular season finale, and several other key hits in between.
JJ Hardy got hurt on May 1, and Manny filled in very ably at SS for 43 games. Hardy returned and played very well the rest of the year, his last productive season as an Oriole. Manny was a stud all year no matter where he played, and had a great year at the plate.
– Hyun Soo Kim was an on-base machine all year, and had a really critical pinch-homer in the 9th inning of Game 158 that turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead that Britton held onto in the bottom of the 9th. That homer arguably saved our season.
– Dylan Bundy was forced into the roster and pitched very credibly despite his minimal MiL experience. He had a jaw dropping relief appearance where he struck out 7 in 2.1 innings and topped out at 98.5. He was inserted into the rotation eventually and highlights included a 7 inning one hit shutout.
– Trey Mancini got a late September call-up and hit a homer in his debut with his mom watching, and two more in the next three games with his family in the stands.
– Chris Tillman had an outstanding year but got hurt down the stretch. Improbably, Ubaldo Jimenez, who had been banished to the bullpen, was reinserted into the rotation and the team went 5-2 in his 7 starts, posting a 2.45 ERA and finishing with a masterful 6.2 inning one-hit shutout in critical game 159 against the Blue Jays.
– Kevin Gausman was masterful over the last two months, posting a 2.83 ERA in his final 12 starts. He won the playoff-clinching season finale, allowing only 2 runs in 7.2 IP.
For me, it was a thrilling, roller coaster season with many team and individual highlights I’ll always remember.