How ’bout dem Birds, hon?
“It’s not a team that’s sitting there going, ‘Woe is me. Let’s get this over with.’ They grind it. They put in so much effort. It takes so much intensity to get back into that game that sometimes it’s tough to get over the hump to actually win it. They were able to do that again tonight.”–Buck Showalter
Let’s go to our Orioles tote board:
- 12 straight extra-inning victories.
- 23-6 record in one-run games.
- 11 straight victories in one-run games.
- 37-17 in games decided by one or two runs.
Now a special tip of the hat to Andy MacPhail. Shortly before the start of Spring Training in 2008, he shipped his staff ace, Erik Bedard, for five prospects. The Mariners saw it was a trade as putting the final piece to the puzzle in place. The Orioles were retooling, or whatever the term is.
Four years later, that trade looks far different. It did not put the final piece of the puzzle in place for the Mariners. Bedard was only 15-14 in 46 starts for the Mariners. Meanwhile, CF Adam Jones is a two-time All-Star and Gold Glove winner for the Orioles. RHP Chris Tillman is 5-1 with a 2.38 ERA in six starts since being summoned back to the big leagues.
Finally, another player obtained in that deal, Steve Johnson, makes his first Major League start for the Birds tonight. It comes 23 years to the day after his dad, Dave, won his first Major League game, also for the Orioles. Dave is now a TV analyst for the Birds, and if I start thinking about it, I’m going to cry.
Tillman has given the Orioles help at their most vulnerable position. Showalter has used nine different starting pitchers and is leaning on a pair of 24-year-olds in Tillman and Zach Britton. Once Jason Hamel returns from the Disabled List, the Orioles may have a decision to make, and Showalter hopes it’s a really tough one.
One of Showalter’s most interesting decisions was moving Nick Markakis from No. 3 to leadoff in his batting order. He made the move after Markakis came off the DL on July 13. Showatler said he didn’t even have to do a selling job. Markakis said if it was best for the team, he was fine with it.
Since the move, Markakis is hitting .360 with a .400 OBP. The Orioles are 14-11 with him hitting first.
Plenty of us thought the O’s would have faded by now. There just didn’t appear to be enough starting pitching, but Showalter has continued to run guys out there, sending a message to minor leaguers that all a guy has to do to get a chance is perform well. The Orioles haven’t been to the playoffs in 15 years, and these Birds are in a dogfight with the Rays, Angels, etc. But they rallied from a 7-2 deficit against the Mariners to win 8-7 in 14 innings Tuesday night and long ago showed that they’re mentally tough, that they’re not going to go away quietly and that baseball is back in Charm City.