Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Felix Bautista, right, celebrates with catcher Adley Rutschman after getting the final out of the MLB Little League Classic baseball game against the Boston Red Sox in Williamsport, Pa., Sunday, Aug. 21, 2022. The Orioles won 5-3. (AP Photo/Tom E. Puskar)

Since the Baltimore Orioles sank to their lowest point of the season on June 10, they have the best record in the American League East. By eight games.

The upstart O's, who defeated the Boston Red Sox 5-3 on Sunday night in an annual event dedicated to the players of the Little League World Series, improved to 63-58 and pulled within 2 1/2 games of an AL wild-card spot. Last season, Baltimore lost 110 games, tying Arizona for the worst record in MLB.

The Orioles played better to start 2022 yet still had one of the worst records in the league about a third of the way into the season. But since the second week of June, Baltimore is 39-23, second best in the AL. In all of MLB during that span, only the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves have fewer losses than the O's. The New York Yankees, who were 42-16 to lead the AL East on June 10, are 32-32 since and have sharply nosedived in August.

While Baltimore remains a long shot to make the playoffs as a wild card, much less overtake the Yankees and two other teams in the division standings, manager Brandon Hyde's club has surged into the playoff race before anyone — its own front office included — expected it. The Orioles even traded one of their top hitters (Trey Mancini), along with their closer (Jorge López), just before the trade deadline in order to continue upper management's strategy of playing for tomorrow. The O’s of today have continued to win anyway.

They have a middle-tier offense, an OK pitching staff and a solid defense depending on where you check, but they also lack significant weaknesses. Rookie catcher Adley Rutschman — one of the draft gems who arrived in part because the franchise has been tanking for years — is probably Baltimore’s best player already. Orioles starters keep scores close generally, and the bullpen, even without López, is one of the top units in the league.

The O’s should have added another stout hitter (not deleted one), along with an innings eater at the deadline to help keep the dream alive, but general manager Mike Elias is doing his thing and ownership has been … distracted. But there's also no reason to expect all of the teams ahead of Baltimore to run away and hide. Most analysts still don't like the Orioles’ chances, and while the experts have reasons to think that way, the O's still could rise above the general mediocrity in the middle of the AL and surprise everyone (including their own executive branch) one more time.

MLB Power Rankings

Rankings are determined by staff vote

Records and statistics are through August 21

1. Los Angeles Dodgers (84-36, Last week: 1): Just what they needed — Right-hander Dustin May came off the injured list and Tommy John rehab to strike out nine in five scoreless innings on Saturday. It's a Big Red Alert for the rest of the league.

2. Houston Astros (78-45, LW: 3): Not what they needed — Slugger Yordan Álvarez left the game and went to a hospital on Friday because of shortness of breath. Doctors couldn't find anything, but, as manager Dusty Baker said, that doesn't mean nothing was wrong. Better news: Álvarez was back in the lineup Sunday.

3. New York Mets (79-44), LW: 2): They're playing better than .600 ball since June 1, but in that span their lead in the National League East has dropped from 10 1/2 games to four.

4. Atlanta Braves (75-48, LW: 4): Slugger Marcell Ozuna, recently arrested for DUI, appears to be checking off a long list of ways to offend decent society.

5. St. Louis Cardinals (69-51, LW: 8): Just eight home runs shy of 700 for his career in his final MLB season, Albert Pujols came into action Sunday ranked 22nd in the entire league in weighted on-base percentage among hitters with at least 200 plate appearances. Yeah, he's played only about 45% of the time, but he's one of the better hitters in the league at age 42.

6. New York Yankees (74-48, LW: 5): Sure, the Bronx Bombers retired Paul O'Neill's No. 21 jersey on Sunday. But should they also have started him in right field? The Yanks are 10-20 in the second half, including 4-14 since Aug. 1. This is how owner Hal Steinbrenner was greeted Sunday:

7. Philadelphia Phillies (66-55, LW: 7): They just lost closer Seranthony Dominguez because of triceps soreness, and Corey Knebel is out for the season because of a shoulder capsule tear. These events will not help the playoff push.

8. Toronto Blue Jays (65-55, LW: 11): They couldn't pull off a four-game sweep at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, missing a chance to get within six games of the AL East leaders, but they're still 2 1/2 games ahead (tied with Seattle) in the AL wild-card jostle.

9. San Diego Padres (68-56, LW: 6): They've given Josh Hader "a break" from closing duties because he has a 16.20 ERA in five games since being acquired from the Brewers. Hader's season ERA is 5.30, so something bigger is amiss.

10. Cleveland Guardians (64-56, LW: 9): At 23, second baseman Andres Giménez continues to blossom, posting a .309/.374/.494 line with 14 homers, 15 steals and 16 HBPs in his first 400 plate appearances. He's also been one of the top 30-40 defensive players in the league at any position.

11. Tampa Bay Rays (65-55, LW: 13): Wander Franco's right hand, still not 100% functional because of a fractured hamate bone, is bothering him enough that his minor-league rehab assignment has been paused.

12. Seattle Mariners (66-56, LW: 12): Outfielder Mitch Haniger (.278/.337/.467 with five HRs) has been one of the Mariners’ best hitters in 23 games since coming off the IL.

13. Milwaukee Brewers (64-56, LW: 10): They prevented a sweep by the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Sunday, but they're 32-38 since May 30. More like the Brew Crude than the Brew Crew, ya dig?

14. Minnesota Twins (62-57, LW: 15): Luis Arraez continues to lead the AL in batting average, and he has more walks (42) than strikeouts (35) — which only a handful of qualified hitters can say in 2022.

15. Baltimore Orioles (63-58, LW: 14): At Triple-A, they're giving time at second base to Gunnar Henderson, the No. 2 overall prospect via MLB.com. Guess which position is Baltimore's weakest? (It's second base.)

16. Chicago White Sox (62-59, LW: 16): The manager is still intentionally walking mediocre hitters after getting ahead in the count with two strikes.

17. Boston Red Sox (60-62, LW: 17): They were 53-52 at the deadline when management decided to have a mini sale, and they've continued to tread water.

18. San Francisco Giants (60-61, LW: 18): They're not out of the running for the postseason, but they didn't take care of business (very much) against the Diamondbacks and Rockies in recent days. So hitting bottom in the NL West seems just as realistic as making the playoffs.

19. Arizona Diamondbacks (55-66, LW: 19): Righty Merrill Kelly continues to impress during his best MLB season to date. Entering Sunday’s action, his expected ERA (via Fangraphs) was 12th among qualified pitchers, better than the likes of Zack Wheeler and Gerrit Cole.

20. Texas Rangers (55-66, LW: 20): Two days after team president Jon Daniels and general manager Chris Young fired manager Chris Woodward, owner Ray Davis fired Daniels. Young being fully in charge probably is for the best, but the timing of it all makes you wonder about Davis' leadership from the top.

21. Chicago Cubs (52-68, LW: 24): They appear to have unlocked slugger Franmil Reyes, who batted .341/.349/.659 with two homers in his first 10 games since the Guardians put him on waivers.

22. Colorado Rockies (53-70, LW: 22): Rookie outfielder Wynton Bernard, who turns 32 in September, had seven hits, five runs scored and three stolen bases in his first six MLB games.

23. Los Angeles Angels (52-69, LW: 21): Joe Maddon said his piece in the Tampa Bay Times about how the team's front office operates — and was uncomplimentary — suggesting that GMs league-wide put on a uniform and work in the dugout if they want to be the manager too.

24. Miami Marlins (52-69, LW: 23): Left-hander Jesús Luzardo, who pitched one of his best games against the Dodgers last Friday, has a 3.44 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 52 1/3 innings overall. That's a big step forward.

25. Kansas City Royals (49-74, LW: 25): Rookie catcher MJ Melendez is batting .250/.346/.444 in the second half. Conversely, rookie infielder Bobby Witt Jr. is batting .233/.263/.367 since the break.

26. Cincinnati Reds (48-71, LW: 26): Joey Votto followed up a late-career surge in 2021 with his worst career season in 2022. It turns out he needed surgery to repair a damaged rotator cuff in his left shoulder. Votto's sense of humor, which has sharpened with age, was displayed in this tweet. The Reds say they expect him to be 100% by spring training, when Votto will be 39.

27. Pittsburgh Pirates (47-74, LW: 27): GM Ben Cherington said he expects manager Derek Shelton to start next season in the same position.

28. Detroit Tigers (47-76, LW: 28): They have needed rookie Riley Greene to get going, and he hit a 448-foot home run against Shohei Ohtani to highlight a complete effort on his part against the Angels on Sunday.

29. Oakland Athletics (45-77, LW: 29): They promoted their top prospect (via MLB.com) to the majors — catcher Shea Langeliers, who came over from the Braves in the Matt Olson trade. Further, three of their top five prospects have come up through the minors as catchers, with Tyler Soderstrom also getting work at first base. No matter, their best player right now is catcher Sean Murphy, who is batting .253/.333/.448 with 16 homers. He's also coming off a Gold Glove season. The A’s got some C’s.

30. Washington Nationals (41-82, LW: 30): Thirty-year-old rookie Joey Meneses batted .323/.354/.581 with five homers in his first 65 plate appearances in MLB. It's not Juan Soto, but it's better than nothing.

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