This morning I caught myself trying to dig up every ounce of video from last night’s game, trying to recapture the magic that helped launch 4 Orioles home runs en route to their 14-8 victory over the Cleveland Indians. And yes, it was the Cleveland Indians- but this team is the Baltimore Orioles, so should that saying even apply anymore? I mean, as the worst team in baseball we are expected to be the worse team every time we take the field, which just makes this current 7-1 run under Buck Showalter all the more impressive. So while the starting pitching was questionable for the first time under the new skipper, the bats proved that they could carry their part, if for one night.
That said, you have to respect Showalter’s decision to keep Jake Arrieta in the game even after his tough 4th inning. Showalter said after Jake’s first outing under the new manager that he wanted to see more of him, see what he was made of. Well, that was on display last night as Jake rebounded well enough to get the win after 6 innings- the bullpen still can’t afford to head out there in the 6th every night, even after the recent success from the starters. There is no question that Arrieta did not have his best stuff last night, but I take solace in the fact that he only walked two batters- as long as he has his control I think he will be fine up in the majors with a bit more time. Showalter was rewarded by the Orioles bats coming alive, bouncing back twice from deficits to immediately respond – whether or not it’s his doing, the correlation demands that Showalter gets some of the credit.
Buck Showalter’s arrival has been greeted with fanfare and heaps of praise, praise that left me confident in his abilities but also a bit cautious- the manager is never a miracle worker. However, the current attitude of this team seems to have transcended a simple managerial switch, indicating that Showalter’s presence has done far more than simply manage the bullpen differently. Should the Orioles continue this hot streak through the rest of this series, even if they wind up with splitting the last two games, we may be beginning to see a new start for this team actually taking hold. We have seen it before and I have certainly written it before on this blog, but rarely were those pronouncements backed up by the play on the field. These last 8 games have not even resembled the hapless, lost efforts of earlier in the season. The patience, precision, and tenacity in the field and at the plate have allowed the Orioles to surprise the Angels and White Sox and may set the stage to preventing an August/September swoon for the first time in a decade.
Which brings me to another point that you hear from fans of any bad team as they get hot towards the end of the season. Some fans would rather hold out for that #1 overall pick and lose some games than win down the stretch and be left with the 4th or 5th pick in the draft, and to that I can’t agree. For the Orioles it would mean a great deal more to win now in order to win in the future. Most years there is not a Stephen Strasburg or a Bryce Harper who is the unquestioned #1 overall pick, a game-changer and franchise-maker. Most years there are 10 or so guys who could all make a case for being the #1 pick, and money, needs, etc. all play a role in who gets that call. While Anthony Rendon out of Rice certainly looks like the consensus #1 pick, even he has his own question marks, particularly with regards to his health.
So if the Orioles did wind up with the #1 pick they are looking at a player who is marginally better than the alternatives (or not, the way baseball drafting goes) but they are also left as the same sad-sack team that couldn’t attract any decent free agents. If ownership does plan to spend this offseason, they would help their case with free agents to show a product worth signing on for. Having the #4 pick with a team that ended the last two months of the season on a hot streak bodes much better for the Orioles chances of long-term success than a #1 pick and a team no free agent wants to join.
So as long as the Orioles keep the wins coming I will try just a little bit to keep baseball alive in this baseball town. The O’s are trying their best, however belatedly, to keep football at bay… at least until the Ravens actually start the regular season.