Next Man Up: Orioles Style
I bet that five and a half hour death march from the left coast to Charm City for the boys in Black and Orange were filled with bad jokes and adult beverages. And what not, as Buck’s Birds had just completed one of their best west coast swings winning seven-of-11, punctuated with a Sunday (first win on the Sabbath) 8-4 win vs. the Angels of Tustin/Irvine/Fountain Valley.
And if it wasn’t for some shaky defense and some impressive pitching performances by the Mariners, the Orioles could’ve very well be sitting on top of the AL East this morning. Instead they will enjoy a well deserved off day sitting only 1.5 games back of the Boston Red Sox and in a tie for second place with the New York Yankees.
Of course, I can’t go any further without talking about the knee of April’s A.L. Player of the Month, Chris Davis.
In the fifth inning of Friday night’s game, hustling his ass off to beat out an infield single, Davis stepped on the bag awkwardly and almost went Derrick Rose on the Orioles season. Turns out after much speculation and “here we go again” rhetoric on twitter, this mammoth of a man just tweaked the knee and was surprisingly back in the lineup yesterday. But his absence in the lineup on Saturday provided one of the biggest, “team-wins” so far this season (IMO).
That’s because Buck ran out the likes of Steve Pearce (1st base), Ryan Flaherty and newly traded for catcher, Chris Snyder. And I’m not even mentioning the starting pitching. Freddy Garcia, who just might have won the 5th starter derby with his 6+ innings of no hit ball.
Not to go all Ravens on you, but this was the Orioles equivalent of their “next man up” mentality.
Up four-to-nothing through 7 innings has usually been as big of a lock as traffic on the Bay Bridge on Friday of Memorial Day weekend. That’s because the Orioles had won an absurd 105 games without a loss when leading AFTER 7 innings.
But like the NBA playoffs, teams make a run and the talented Angels stormed back to tie the game at 4 sending an almost sure win for the O’s into extra innings. That’s where the “next man up” motto was served like Mint Julip on Derby Day as Steve Pearce went opposite field with the O’s first hit with a runner in scoring position and plated Nolan Reimold with two outs to give the Birds the lead. On came Jim Johnson (who has been just brilliant) to secure one of the best wins of the young season.
I say “best wins of the young season” because good teams can look back on certain wins in during baseball season and say “that was a huge win.”
Anyone remember the 18-inning affair last season at Fenway where Davis did his best Jim Palmer impression? What about the night Cal Ripken’s statue was unveiled and Adam Jones hit that bomb into the left field lower box to beat the Yanks in front of 48K plus? You get my point.
After 32 games this team is sitting at 19-13 winning seven-of-10 series’ with an American League leading 12-8 road record.
And they haven’t exactly been beating up on the “Sisters of the Poor” as they have taken series’ from the likes of the Sox (at Fenway, mind you), the $200-million dollar Angels, pitching rich Rays (twice), overrated Blue Jays, as well as the Dodgers to name a few. They are doing this with probably the worst starting rotation in the AL East offset by the best offense and bullpen in all of the American League at print time.
With a good Kansas City Royals squad coming to the “Yards” Tuesday to start a mini 3-game home stand before heading to Minnesota over Mothers Day weekend, the Orioles just need to continue the old Earl Weaver slogan of “Just. Win. Series“.
So far, so good Earl!