Friday Night: Rich Hill delivers a very good start, and timely hitting guarantees the Orioles a solid victory against a great Phillies team. Might be a bit of a fluke.
Saturday Night: Brad Bergesen is incredible for 6 innings, then runs into trouble in the 7th. He’s replaced by Danys Baez, who allows a spine-pinching home run to Ryan Howard, who’s just the hero off the bench coming in with a fever that landed him in a hospital. The O’s are down by two in the ninth, Gregg Zaun hits a home run, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. They had a shot. Oscar Salazar had an incredibly hard-hit single, and you just knew something would happen. Then, with two outs, and right on cue, Mr. Brian Roberts hits a two-run home run, well out of the park. The Orioles win 6-5, as George Sherrill pitches a perfect ninth.
Sunday Afternoon: World Series MVP Cole Hamels is on the mound for the Phils, and he goes 8 masterful innings. Jeremy Guthrie, who’s had his best outings on Sundays this season, albeit in losses, goes 7 incredible innings. After going 1-3 with an 8.53 ERA on the road this season, Guthrie showed his ace stuff from last year. 7 innings, 3 hits, 1 run. Tied 1-1 going into the 8th, Robert Andino, the guy who Roberts stole the spotlight from last night, hit a double. Oscar Salazar, last night’s game-tying run, moved him to 3rd, and who else but Brian Roberts drove in Andino. Orioles lead 2-1. Jim Johnson and George Sherrill close out the game, and the Orioles sweep the World Champions, and NL East leaders. This is the team’s first road sweep since 2007 against Kansas City.
What a great weekend. All three starters pitched incredibly, the bullpen was solid (minus the home run), and the offense was rolling when it needed to. There were some incredible plays, most notably Andino at short, and Melvin Mora snagging a ground ball in the ninth inning of Sunday’s game, maybe saving the lead for Sherrill. Speaking of Sherrill, he’s perfect in his last 10 save opportunities, and his ERA is 2.20. Jim Johnson is returning to last year’s form, with a 2.67 ERA, and 11 holds.
Andino has been better than ever thought possible replacing Izturis, both at the plate and playing shortstop. The team has won 7 of 8, and is only 5 games under .500 now. Matt Wieters is still trying to get it all together, but is getting there. The Birds have a 9-3 record in interleague play, which is the best in the MLB other than the LA Angels, who are 9-2, but still haven’t finished tonight’s Sunday Night Baseball game against the Dodgers and the team is tied with Colorado with the longest win streak in the MLB. The great thing about this sweep is that it was on the road, on a Sunday. We all remember the Sunday loss streak last year, which reached 13, and ended with Dave Trembley foolishly smoking a cigar. The more important thing, though, is the fact that it was on the road. Before this series, the O’s were 8-20 on the road, and 21-17 at home.
If they can improve on their now 11-20 road record, I don’t see why at least a season close to .500 is out of the question. The pitching is there, if it just stays consistent. The bats sure are there, and so is the defense, and the hunger to win. They’ve been too bad for too long, and this city deserves a winner. This has happened before, these streaks, and then they end up having an 11-game losing streak follow and a manager fired. This time seems different. There’s too much going for this club. Sure, it’s likely that they’ll end with a losing season, it’s just really hard to win in this division, and September is full of AL East clashes. But even with the likely result of another year than less than 81 wins, there’s so much to look forward to.
The team’s supposed ace Jeremy Guthrie is only 30. They have three of the game’s top pitching prospects (Tillman, Matusz, Arrieta), two rookies who are making waves, one with his bat, another with his defense and popularity, in Nolan Reimold and Matt Wieters, respectively. They’ve got a deep system, especially with pitchers, always the Achilles’ Heel for this team. Their top pick in ’06, Brandon Snyder, is close to the Majors, and the guy blocking him, Aubrey Huff, could get a huge return in a trade. Things are looking up in the system, and young guys in the bigs, too. Brad Bergesen is looking like a future ace, David Hernandez and Jason Berken have both flashed signs of brilliance. Jim Johnson is turning 26 in five days, and is one of the best setup men in the AL, if not the MLB.
This post may have been wordy, a bit confusing, and might be the most repeating thing you’ve read in a while, but hey, it’s much better how I felt in May, which was basically the complete opposite. This team is great at giving you the highs and lows, and inconsistent as they are, the one thing more sure about them is that no matter how hard you try, you can’t stop believing in them. Maybe it’s nostalgia for the older fans, thinking of success in the past. It could be the hope for younger fans, and the memory of 1997, the last season where this team was any good. But, even if the team isn’t very good this year, while all signs point that they have the potential to be good, there’s nothing better than going to the Yard on a Friday night, getting some food and cheering with people you probably don’t know at all. You can enjoy a great performance by the team, complain about the team’s management and insist you could run it better, or laugh at a group of guys who have all had a bit too much to drink.
After a sweep, there are no complaints about the team, especially a sweep of this magnitude. Then, after the first loss and the first time a pitcher gets knocked out in 3 innings, it all will start up again. We’ll be mad on this blog, other fans will be mad, and inevitably, the team will trade someone. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts. It’s been a while since a road sweep, and it’s a good time to be an O’s fan. It may seem a bit crazy, but I haven’t been this happy about the team since I was 9, and Raffy and Ripken were RBI machines. B.J. Surhoff was on the team, Mike Bordick, and a pre-prime Brady Anderson. That team was full of veterans, who had been established for years. Our future teams will be younger, maybe they can grow into that team. It would be cool. Very cool.
NOTE: I just read that the O’s were 0-9 in road series finales until today. That makes it even better.