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How many of you think the Orioles will win the AL East?

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Predictions in baseball are almost comically dumb. We all do them because they’re kinda fun and because we have nothing else to do before the season starts, but they really are a sucker’s game. You can’t predict injuries or slumps or breakouts, no matter how quasi-scientific you try to make your analysis sound. We’re all just guessing. The more honest among we writer folk will admit that to you up front and poke fun at ourselves for being really wrong. Note: I picked the Tigers and Giants to win Wild Cards last year!

That said, there are some guesses which are more informed and educated than others. We’re in an age of super teams these days, it seems, and it’s really, really hard to pick against some of them, let alone more than one of them at the same time. If you go out on a limb like that I’ll totally give your contrarian take a fair hearing, but do understand, the burden is on you to convince me, not on me to suspend disbelief and nod at your wacko prediction as a matter of course. I hope that’s not controversial.

Anyway, I say all of this because today ESPN is running their preseason prediction pieces in which they poll their “29 experts” about who will win what. The AL East prediction sort of jumped out at me:

The Yankees are everyone’s pick. The Red Sox are the defending champs and still look loaded, so that’s totally defensible. But, uh, the Orioles? Someone who calls themselves a baseball expert is picking the Orioles to win the American League East? Really?

Again: we’re all entitled to our opinion and even the most baseball savvy brain genius on the planet is gonna be way off on many of their predictions. The Orioles will play 162 games in 2018 and have a non-zero chance to win each game in which they play, so there is nothing conclusively barring them from winning the AL East. I’m just struggling to understand what, absent multiple plane crashes and/or a Martian occupation of everything north of Towson, the world in which the Orioles win the AL East looks like. Sadly, the linked article does not provide an explanation of that seemingly magical world. Maybe one will come later. Maybe this article is clickbait for later clickbait. Clickbait bait? I dunno.

Either way, part of me actually hopes the Orioles pull it off. Not because I care about the Orioles or hate the Yankees or Red Sox — I still think both of them will be way better than the O’s — but because it would be an amazing story and would create utter chaos in the Baseball Industrial Complex. I’ve been writing about this sport for about 12 years now, professionally for almost a decade, and I’ll admit that some sameness creeps into every season. A changeup like Baltimore vanquishing the Yankees and Red Sox in the 162-game championship season would be something to behold and would force me to come up with new words and stuff. We could all use such constructive disruption.

Really, though, that dude’s just nuts, right?

Max Scherzer, with broken nose, strikes out 10 Phillies over seven shutout innings

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Nationals starter Max Scherzer bunted a ball into his face during batting practice on Tuesday, breaking his nose in the process. He ended up with a gnarly looking shiner around his right eye, making him appear a bit like Terminator. Scherzer still took the ball to start the second game of Wednesday night’s doubleheader against the Phillies.

Despite the injury, Scherzer was incredibly effective, limiting the Phillies to four hits and two walks across seven shutout innings, striking out 10 batters in the process. He might even have had some extra adrenaline going, as he averaged 96.2 MPH on his fastball, his highest average fastball velocity in a game since September 2012, per MLB.com’s Jamal Collier. The Nationals provided Scherzer with just one run of support, coming on a Brian Dozier solo home run off of Jake Arrieta in the second inning, but it was enough.

Wander Suero worked a scoreless top of the eighth with a pair of strikeouts. Victor Robles added a solo homer off of Pat Neshek in the bottom half. Closer Sean Doolittle took over in the ninth, working a 1-2-3 frame to give the Nats their 2-0 victory.

Over his last six starts, Scherzer now has a 0.88 ERA with a 59/8 K/BB ratio across 41 innings. He has gone six innings, struck out at least nine batters, and held the opposition to two or fewer runs in each of those six starts.