1-6. That was the combined record of the Os and Ravens in the month of October. The last win by a Baltimore professional sports franchise before Sunday came on October 2nd, when the Orioles beat the Yankees 5-2 (which was the last game appearance by Zach Britton as well, but let’s not beat a dead horse). Granted, there were only 7 total games in the month due to the Orioles inability to advance beyond the Wild Card and a Ravens bye week. The small sample size isn’t representative though of how truly crushing those losses were and what a colossal disappointment the entire month was, especially for a fan base that has become accustomed to success.
Without a doubt, the Orioles exceeded expectations this year, but that accrued optimism was dashed by inept offense and questionable managerial moves against the Jays. The Orioles most significant loss was not the game, but will rather have long term consequences. Buck Showalter’s decision to keep Zach Britton in the bullpen and trot Ubaldo Jimenez out to end the game was second guessed by everyone with a TV set. The motto of Orioles nation has been “In Buck We Trust” for over 5 seasons now, but the playoffs left that confidence shaken. The Os’ October will surely be felt for years to come.
The Ravens were dreadful in October. The bye week in the final week of the month was a welcome reprieve. Everything about the offense has been painful to watch. The running game, once a hallmark of Ravens football, was entirely absent despite some promising, young talent. Injuries have consistently put this team on their back, and this year it’s been felt most significantly along the offensive line. The Ravens spent the majority of the month without Marshal Yanda and Ronnie Stanley, which showed. The offense was so bad that Marc Trestman didn’t make it to Halloween with the team. There were no treats for the team during October.
The defense looked okay, but failed to put any pressure on quarterbacks and never stood up on crucial end of game drives. When you lose close games the way the Ravens do, it’s easy to look back and single out plays which costed the team wins. When the Ravens needed late game stops, they didn’t get them (see Giants, Redskins, Raiders).
For the Ravens, November is looking up. While it wasn’t pretty, a win against the Steelers is always fantastic. Flacco looked better, although he still missed several reads and threw a terrible interception off his back foot. The offensive line looked healthier and was very effective. The defense was stifling (until the 4th quarter) and finally delivered a needed stop on Pittsburgh’s final drive. However, they missed many opportunities to force turnovers, which they will need the rest of the season if they want to compete.
For the Orioles, things aren’t looking so rosy. The retirement of Dave Wallace looked tough for the Os, but losing Dom Chiti is a potential crusher. The front office seems asleep at the wheel. Chiti joining the coaching staff in Atlanta happened largely under the radar, but the dominance of the bullpen could be largely attributed to him. That loss will be felt significantly. The Orioles also have some real roster problems, beginning with the debate over contracts for Mark Trumbo and Matt Wieters and carrying on into arbitration-eligible contracts. November may not be much better than October for the Os.
October was tough on Baltimore. However, I am nothing if not blindly optimistic. The Ravens gave a glimmer of hope in their first outing in November. This time is reminiscent of a Counting Crows song, but I’ll adjust the line, “It’s been a long “October,” but there’s reason to believe maybe this “month” will be better than the last.”