Before we cue up the “Why Not” anthem, or drag out the “worst to first” mantra, or start talking about the Orioles going “wire to wire” let’s remember that the Orioles did make an error this weekend (looking at you Mark Reynolds) and until Zach Britton can get on the same page as the rest of the starting pitchers, O’s fans need to temper there expectations. Face it, the staff ERA is likely to gradually rise to at least 2 runs per game. And we cannot expect the club to win much more than 70% of their divisional games. What is clear is that the Orioles are prepared for “Payback Tour 2011.” Watch out American League East the O’s Train is rolling and the Buck Truck brakes for nobody. Ahh… that was fun. Here is the best and best from the Orioles impressive sweep of the defending AL East Champion Tampa Bay Rays.
Stingy Starter’s: Jeremy Guthrie set the tone. Chris Tillman and Zach Britton followed in suit. The Orioles starters shut down the Rays and were the biggest reason for the three game sweep. No one is going to confuse Tampa with the ’27 Yankees and honestly they may have trouble keeping up with the ’10 Padres, but the Orioles shut down a club that is usually resourceful at scoring runs in their own park.
In Right-field… Clark Kent?: Nick “Nicky” Markakis was not wearing a cape when he soared through the florescent glow at Torpicana Field, but may start wearing one if he keeps making plays like that. Markakis made the play of the weekend. It is hard to say how the series would have turned out if he did not make the lead preserving catch. Markakisis’ catch was the signature play of a weekend in which the Orioles flashed a lot of leather. JJ Hardy had a great series int eh field and at the plate, Felix Pie’s throw to home in game two was huge and Mark Reynolds showed what an upgrade he is at the hot corner.
Britton Doesn’t Miss a Beat:The only bad news of the opening weekend was that Brian Matusz was placed on the DL with a strained back muscle. The move put a damper on the Orioles mood after opening night, but for at least one start rookie Zach Britton showed the O’s might not miss Matusz that much. Britton had to battle at times, but turned in a strong debut performance limiting the Rays to 3 hits and 1 run over 6 innings. Perhaps what is even more amazing is that Britton stifled the Rays without his best pitch. Britton admitted that he was too amped to have an effective sinker so he and Matt Wieters decided to work without it. I guess Britton was being nice and giving the Rays a chance to hit him, but I would hate to see how effective he can be with his sinker in play.
Playing with a chip: It will be interesting to see if the Orioles can sustain this, but Showalter has them playing with a chip on their shoulders. We saw it some last year, and they will need to keep it their this year to keep winning game. Fortunately for the Orioles they have a lot of players who are looking to establish themselves as big leaguers, or who are looking to bounce back after down years. In his tenure with the Orioles, Buck has proven that he is good at motivating his guys and getting them to expect to win games.
What was your favorite play or moment from the weekend?