Coming off of a good win yesterday in Chicago (and a series win), the Orioles head out “to the coast” for the weekend to take on the L.A. Angels of Anaheim (in Orange County, of California, which happens to be in the USA, on planet earth). On a side note, when I was a kid they just called them the California Angels, which was pretty simply; why was that wrong?! This is a good test for the Birds, who have been soaring since the season started. In judging the pulse of the fan base right now, I’d say that most people in Baltimore really do want to believe in this team. There’s nothing that the city of Baltimore wants to believe in more than it’s beloved Orioles. The question is what will allow even the biggest naysayer out there to believe? Would a good showing against a perceived “good team” such as the Angels do the trick?
Obviously the Angels have a threat in their lineup that’s rarely been seen by the O’s over the years in Albert Pujols. However Pujols has struggled a bit at the plate out of the gate, and he’s yet to hit his first home run as a halo. However to quote Bruce Springsteen, “everybody has a hungry heart.” I’m sure that Pujols is raring to break out at the plate. Oriole pitchers need to ensure that doesn’t happen – at least not this weekend. And if it does, they then need to minimize the damage. Brian Matusz will head to the bump tonight, still in search of his first win of 2012. Until I read the stat on mlb.com, I didn’t know that Matusz has the league’s longest active losing streak (11 games). Certainly in some of those games dating back to 2011 he was a hard-luck loser, however most importantly he’s focusing on winning a game in the and now. Matusz’s issue of course has been command, and he’s issued four walks in both of his starts this year. Oriole bats will face Jerome Williams, who was hit hard in NY last weekend. While the O’s are starting Matusz (who’s struggling with command issues), they’ll be facing a similar character in Williams. I’m sure that Williams’ heart sank as he watched Adam Jones’ home run sail out of U.S. Cellular Field yesterday afternoon, knowing that a similar fate might await him if he misses his mark.
As I referenced above, Oriole fans appear to be caught in this tugo-of-war of sorts whereby they want to believe in this team. By that, I mean that really want to believe in this team. However it’s probably similar to asking a girl to your senior prom if you were burned the year before. If you ask a girl to the junior prom and she ends up spending most of the evening with someone else (perhaps your chief rival), you might be a bit gunshy the next year when it comes to asking someone. You really want to, however you’ve been down this road before. I get it; this coming from a guy that spent his prom Friday (aka-“cut day”) on the Chesapeake Bay fishing for Rock Fish! (And for the record, the O’s took precendence on that evening in my life as opposed to the prom.) However here’s one thing to ponder: losing streaks. Remember 2010 when the Orioles started the season 2-16? That start involved a nine-game losing streak; the Birds would go on that year to have a six-game losing streak and a ten-gamer. By this time last year, the Orioles had already sustained a six-game losing streak as well…
…why do I bring this up? The fact is that the O’s have not had massive losing streaks through the first two weeks of the season. They lost three straight to NY, and then had two “one-game losing streaks” against Toronto and Chicago. Again, this doesn’t mean anything for the rest of the season. But they say that you can’t win a division in April, yet you can certainly lose one; that’s what the Orioles did with their ten-game losing streak in 2010. Last year after starting out so promisingly, they were sunk by an untimely six-game skid. Nothing along those likes has happened to this team as of yet. When they were a bit down after being swept by the Yankees, they answered the bell and took the fight directly to their opponent (the Blue Jays). After losing a not-so-close game to the ChiSox on Wednesday, they came back yesterday and won a hard fought game.
Again, none of this bears any relevance to the 2012 Baltimore Orioles. However I’m merely pointing out that they haven’t fallen victim to the cavernous losing streaks that marred the first couple weeks of the past two seasons. This is due in large part to the fact that this current mix of guys has found a way to come through when the game’s been on the line. In 2010 perhaps Tejada would have come up yesterday in the #4 hole instead of Adam Jones. For all the good you can say about Tejada, there was an equal chance that he would have struck out or flied out. The same could be said of Guerrero in 2011. While the core of those teams are still in tact, the supporting cast has changed; therein just might lie the difference.