Sixteen wins, nine losses.
Second place in the American League East.
A game out of first.
Two-and-a-half games ahead of the Yankees.
Four-and-a-half games ahead of the last place Boston Red Sox. That felt so good to write, I’m going to write it again: Four-and-a-half games ahead of the last place Boston Red Sox.
Look at all of those phrases. I can’t believe I wrote them – and they’re all true.
Maybe I was wrong about these Orioles. I’m using the word “maybe” because there are more than 120 games left and we’ve all seen the Orioles crash in spectacular, stunning fashions in previous seasons. It’s hard to fall in love with a team that routinely breaks your heart.
But I’m done talking about the past. I can’t remember the last time the future was so bright surrounding this team, so I’m going bask in it for as long as it lasts.
Did you watch Wednesday night’s game? The Yankees had Ivan Nova on the mound – yes that Ivan Nova who had won 15 straight decisions, one shy of tying the team record for consecutive decisions without a loss. And his bid to win No. 16 in a row, was sweet – for the Orioles.
Nova? Against the Orioles’ Murder’s Row of J.J. Hardy, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters, who went a combined 7 for 17 with three runs batted-in and four runs scored in a 5-0 win, his name might as well been No-way.
The Orioles made us all feel young for one night because it marked the third straight game they held the Evil Empire to two or fewer runs.
The last time that happened?
When Jimmy Carter was in the White House.
When a gallon of gas cost $0.63.
When Hungry Hungry Hippos was the coolest board game a kid could own.
When all four Beatles were alive and released an album.
When the Orioles won 90 games – and still finished fourth.
The Orioles earned more than two of three games from the Yankees this week.
They earned credibility. How will it last?
But if the Orioles continue to play this way, you think they’ll be painting the Oriole bird on Federall Hill like city officials do for the Ravens when they make the playoffs?
Orioles and playoffs?
In the same sentence.
I can’t believe I just wrote it, but I promise I’m not chugging orange Kool-Aid. But I’m certainly stirring it and starting to salivate over it like Peter Angelos does to an asbestos victim.
The Orioles aren’t great, but look at their division. First-place Tampa Bay just lost All-Star Evan Longoria, one of the league’s best players, for at least a month, probably two. The Yankees are getting older, and there’s a fine line between being experienced and being a step slow. The Red Sox are in last place and are one Bobby Valentine rant away from just tossing the season into the Boston Harbor like it was the Boston Sox Party.
And Toronto? Please. The Orioles just swept them last month.
Future is looking brighter on Eutaw Street, isn’t it? Now, I’m not saying to put the Natty Boh on ice to prepare it for – wait – a playoff berth, but here’s why I’m proud of this team.
The Orioles are watchable again. For three hours, we get to watch a team capable of winning, which really hadn’t been the case since the Clinton Administration.
This team is worth watching, which is the first step in contending.
This team plays like it believes it can win. Believes – that’s the key word here. Maybe it started when they rallied to end Boston’s season in the final game of the year in 2011. Or maybe it wasn’t. Who cares?
They are 16-9 and maybe – just maybe – can make going to Camden Yards cool again, like it was when Ripken was becoming the Iron Man and the team’s ace was some guy named Mussina.
Orioles magic? I don’t care how they pull out wins. Just keep pulling them.
I wish I could present a logic for this, but I can’t explain how the Orioles are seven games over .500 for the first time since 2005.
Please don’t tell me you saw Chris Davis hitting .316, Adam Jones scoring 19 runs and smacking six homers or some guy named Jason Hammel leading the team in wins (3), strikeouts (30) and earned-run average (1.97). How long will it be until it’s Jason Hammel Bobblehead Night?
I didn’t see this coming. I predicted doom and gloom and would have bet Angelos sold the team to Mark Cuban before the Orioles were in second place this late – in this case about a month – into the season.
I don’t know how long this run will last, especially considering the Orioles play nine of their next 12 games against the Rays, Rangers and Yankees, who have a combined record of 47-27?
But I don’t care, either. I’m enjoying watching the Orioles play right now, so why focus on the future?
(Feature photo by Larry Luxner)
Jon Gallo is an award-winning journalist and editor with 19 years of experience, including stints as a staff writer at The Washington Post and sports editor at The Baltimore Examiner. He also believes the government should declare federal holidays in honor of the following: the Round of 64 of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament; the Friday of the Sweet 16; the Monday after the Super Bowl; and of course, the day after the release of the latest Madden NFL video game.