The Orioles have a winning streak going. Not a two-game, when-can-we-call-this-a-streak streak, but a legitimate sign of life from a team that has been D.O.A. since Spring Training started back in March. But 4 wins, three against a mediocre Nationals team without having to face Stephen Strasburg, isn’t a huge reason to celebrate, and I am sure our readers will remind me that this team is still the worst in the majors. Agreed. But if Orioles fans were looking for their team to give up, they will be disappointed. The Orioles are still fighting. For better or for worse, this team’s record may not be a result of poor effort after all. At least, not anymore.
Nick Markakis has made a splash in the last several weeks, going public with his criticism of the team and offering surprisingly specific areas where his teammates need to improve. They needed to work the count, choose their pitches, scout pitchers better and adjust. They needed to come up with a plan for attacking every pitcher and stick with it. No, he didn’t call anyone out, but he took on a role as a leader of this club, one sorely needed in the absence of veterans with a winning background. He then took it a step further, meeting directly with Peter Angelos to discuss where the team needs to improve and voice his frustration with the team. This was a move I did not expect. I knew that the team had wanted more contact with the owner (why, I have no idea) but for Nick to make his appeals directly to the boss shows a level of concern and proactive effort that I didn’t expect out of this club. I hope Angelos is now as committed to creating a winning team as Markakis appears to be.
While the starting pitching has been a mess as of late (Kevin Millwood is looking more demoralized every start), the bullpen seems to be finding its way without Jim Johnson, Mike Gonzalez, or Koji Uehara. Which, speaking of Koji, can we count him for maybe half a roster spot? I give him 4 innings spread over two weeks before another hamstring injury sends him to the DL. David Hernandez is committing to his move and getting great results thus far, and Jason Berken has been a revelation in long relief. The bullpen combined to pitch 12 1/3 scoreless this weekend alone, which would make me worried about exhausting the bullpen’s arms, but not this year. For one, this team has much bigger worries than that. Secondly, the bullpen has been such a rotating door this season that I don’t think anyone stays there long enough to get a dead arm. Unless they go on the DL, of course.
Now, 4 games won’t turn around what has already been an historically bleak season for Baltimoreans. It won’t make those ugly ERAs go down, it won’t suddenly bring respectable numbers for Orioles hitters, and it won’t make Jake Fox and Scott Moore permanent fixtures in the majors. However, the way the lineup struck back from every deficit over the weekend, scored runs whether by opponent’s errors or by overcoming their own baserunning errors or by stringing together some timely hits showed a resilience this fan base hasn’t seen so far this season. Oh, and scoring 11, 7, 6, and 4 runs in a season when the team is averaging 3.5 runs per game is fine with me regardless of how it gets done.
They won’t hit .500 this season or even come close, but Baltimore fans can take heart that their team still has some fight left after a season of halfhearted losses.