It’s likely that fans everywhere are pooh-poohing the Baltimore Orioles’ 7-0 start — maybe even fans in Charm City. But don’t ignore recent history, which has suggested that a hot start may very well lead to a great finish.
Heading into their series finale at Fenway Park tonight, the Birds stand alone at 7-0. They swept the still-winless Minnesota Twins to open the year, then took two in a rain-shortened series against the Tampa Bay Rays. At Fenway, they have scored 18 runs in two more wins. A fluke? Maybe. Or, quite possibly, a good omen.
You see, being the last unbeaten team in baseball has worked out pretty well for teams of late. No, it isn’t like in the NFL when seven or eight wins gets the attention of Don Shula and the rest of the living 1972 Miami Dolphins. No one is going 162-0. But let’s examine the facts of recent years.
Last year, the Kansas City Royals, fresh off their first World Series appearance since 1985, began the 2015 campaign 7-0. They essentially coasted in the AL Central for the rest of the year, and went on to right 2014’s wrongs by capturing a world championship. A year prior, it was another AL Central team, the Detroit Tigers, who went 4-0 to start 2014. They needed every one of those wins, as they ended up winning the division by just one game over the Royals.
As we keep moving back in time, the 2013 Washington Nationals’ 3-0 start hardly drew any headlines, nor did it result in a second straight NL East title. But it did lead to an 86-win season. A year earlier, it was the Tigers again using a hot early start as a springboard. Detroit (along with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who would finish .500) went 4-0, a precursor to winning the AL Central and, ultimately, the pennant.
Before that, it was even better news for the last of the unbeatens. The 2011 Texas Rangers, having lost the World Series a year prior, began a scorching 6-0. They won the AL West with ease, then famously came within a strike of winning the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. In 2010, the team that beat the Rangers in the World Series was the one who went the longest without a loss. The San Francisco Giants began 4-0, then hung on to win the NL West on the season’s final day before surging through the playoffs to take the crown.
Yes, there are still 155 games remaining on the Orioles’ schedule. If they play mediocre ball the rest of the way, their start will be a mere footnote. But if nothing else, they have shown the ability to string together wins in a way they couldn’t in 2015, when their longest streak was six games. And at least history is on their side.