Love from ESPN? Pinch me. ESPN’s baseball blog SweetSpot published an article about the Orioles three game sweep of the defending AL East Champion Tampa Bay Rays. Author David Schoenfield uses the small sample size of Buck’s Birds to predict that Baltimore “could be a big surprise” this season.

The Buck Showalter affect has played a huge role on the Orioles over the last third of 2010 and so far into 2011. Shoenfield talked about how Buck improved the Orioles defense and has made the pitchers throw more strikes. It seems like a simple request, but so far the Orioles have gotten wins from their pitching, which some called suspect or their weak point in Spring Training, and of course solid defense all around.

Schoenfield discussed the bad news about Brian Matusz’s strained intercostal muscle which could cost him three to six weeks on the shelf, but the news quickly turned optimistic after top prospect Zach Britton’s 6 inning three hit, one run performance.

If the Orioles can hold the rotation together until Matusz returns, this team could be a big surprise. The lineup will be relying on the aging bats of Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero, hopeful improvement from Matt Wieters, and the unknown productivity of whiff king Mark Reynolds. If those guys hit, this could be a fun team worthy of bringing the fans back to Camden Yards.

Maybe the best part of Schoenfield’s piece were his last nine words. “And, yes, Red Sox Nation is in a panic.”