Courtesy of USA Today

Are we seeing a new day in Orioles' baseball?

I’ve written a lot about clutch hitting through the first couple weeks worth of Oriole games; that’s not been done by design, but more so because circumstances have called for it. In last week’s NY series we saw the Orioles cave under pressure and suddenly not be able to hit in the clutch. However since then it seems that they’ve mastered the skill. Let me once again reiterate that nobody succeeds 100% of the time. However in theory nobody fails 100% of the time either; yet tell any Oriole fan over the past couple of seasons that theory!

Yesterday I likened the O’s to Bad Boy LeRoy Brown since they were playing on the south side of Chicago. While I’m a huge fan of that song, the reference I should have made was to Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get it On!; different connotation I know, but that seemed to be the Orioles’ attitude in the latter part of last night’s game. Through the first seven innings it seemed that they had reverted to their old form of not being able to produce with runners in scoring position. The game stood at 1-1until the 6th when Chicago put two runs up. We’ve all seen this particular game before, right? The O’s get a quality start from someone like Jake Arrieta (in adverse conditions – cold temperatures – at that), only to not step up and score runs behind him. Then when he tires and gives up a couple of runs the game’s over. Sounds like the same story we’ve seen countless times the past couple of seasons…right? Not so fast…

…Chicago even put another run on the board in the 7th inning, and Matt Wieters hit was came across at the time as a nominal homer in the top of the 8th. Again, the Birds are still done for the night…right? Again, not so fast…there’s still a 9th inning to play. Did the events of last September 28th not teach us anything?! Nolan Reimold’s solo homer put the O’s to within one run before Adam Jones came to the plate with two outs. Remember last week against NY when Jones had the bases loaded and struck out, prompting all of this talk about hitting in the clutch? Flash forward again to last night – Jones hits a homer to tie the game. You don’t get much more clutch than that.

Here's to 2011 breakouts!Mark Reynolds reached third base on a fielding error in the top of the 10th, and he was doubled home by Chris Davis as the O’s took a 5-4 lead. Davis scored on the heels of Andino and Reimold singles, prompting Buck Showalter to call down to the pen to have Jim Johnson get loose. Again, let’s talk clutch hitting; later in the inning with the bases loaded, Matt Wieters strides to the plate again. We talk so much about how add-on runs are important in baseball; I suppose that a single on Wieters’ part would have sufficed and scored one or two runs however Wieters decided to go out and hit another homer, his first career grand-slam. With the Birds then leading 10-4, Showalter told Johnson to sit down…no reason to spend another reliever (and the closer at that) in a non-save situation.

I think that the Orioles learned something last week when they lost to the Yankees and were criticized for not being able to hit in the clutch. Since then, they did it in Toronto and they did it again last night in Chicago. That, combined with the same never say die attitude that we saw from them last September, has propelled the Orioles off to a very decent 6-4 start. We might well look back at this game on the south side of Chicago as a key point in time. With the O’s coming off of a loss on Sunday in Toronto after a couple of feel-good wins, history says that they probably would go into a tailspin. Yet that didn’t happen. You’re never going to win them all, so let’s not forget that. However if the first ten games are any indication, I think these Birds are here for the long haul.

Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala

 

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