How long can the Orioles keep this up?


A friend of mine that roots for the Washington Nationals asked me a few days ago what I thought of the Nats’ quick start this year. My response was that it was certainly impressive, however the Nationals were winning games due to their solid starting pitching and a couple of hits here and there. (On Tuesday they beat the San Diego Padres 3-1 and recorded only four hits in the game.) That’s not a trend that’s going to lead you to the promised land unless you get really lucky. That same trend has gripped the Orioles over the past few days. On Sunday they beat the Angels 3-2 in 10 innings, on Tuesday they beat Toronto 2-1, and last night they beat Toronto again 3-0.

In the Toronto series at least, the Orioles have relied heavily on the home run, which in itself is a problem. Oriole fans should have been relieved for more than one reason when Adam Jones’ double scored Nick Markakis in the 8th inning last night. It showed that the Birds were still capable of manufacturing runs. Furthermore, all of the homers that have been hit of late have been solo shots. Don’t misread what I’m saying; solo home runs count as much as anything else. As Jim Palmer would say, if you hit a solo home run then the opponent has to score at least two to beat you. But the idea is that at some point you’re going to need to score more than two runs to win a game.

On the other hand, is it worth saying that the Orioles are winning the games? Survey says: without a doubt. Keep in mind that last year the Birds lost quite a few games 7-2, 5-2, etc. So that tells us that the starting pitching is much improved over anything we’ve seen in the recent past. However it’s virtually impossible to have that kind of effort on a nightly basis. I don’t say that to demean the Orioles’ pitching staff, but more so as a realist. (As opposed to my Nationals’ fan friend who’s response to that is “why not?”) At some point the O’s will need to score more than two or three runs to win a game. If not before, that hour might be coming next week when they make their maiden voyage to the Bronx in 2012, and then onto Fenway next weekend.

Don’t get me wrong, when you’re winning games things are going well. However this is just food for thought. Furthermore teams go through several phases over the course of a season, which is exactly what this is. Keep in mind that the Birds beat the Minnesota Twins 7-1 in the second game of the season, and they won a couple of shoot-out ballgames against this same Toronto Blue Jays team at Rogers Centre two weekends ago. In fairness, let’s also give some credit to the opposing pitchers; of late the O’s have faced the Angels and Blue Jays. Both of those teams have good pitching. Ultimately regardless of how they’ve arrived at this point, the Orioles are 11-7 which is a much better record than most people would have predicted at this point. I suppose you could also look at it the other way; the opposition is sitting in it’s clubhouse after these games after losing close ones. I have no doubt that at some point (perhaps when it gets a bit warmer) Oriole bats will come back to life. However if they can continue to get superior pitching performances like they did from Jason Hammel last night, there’s no telling how the games will look.

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