The Baltimore Orioles are off to a 4-0 start for the first time since their wire-to-wire AL East winning season of 1997.
This is cause for excitement, O's fans; while many say it is too early to conjure up thoughts of the playoffs, I say go ahead, think postseason baseball.
If you have watched all four games then you know it is not Orioles magic that is getting it done but the old Oriole Way. In case you forgot what the Oriole way is, it is playing baseball by emphasizing the fundamentals.
When playing the Oriole way, you play good defense, you pitch to your strengths and while you may not have more talent than the team sitting on the other bench, you out work and out hustle them.
You run the bases aggressively and with intelligence while never taking yourself out of an inning because you missed a sign or a base coaches’ instructions.
You also have to depend on timely hitting and make the opposing pitcher work for every strike he gets.
The Orioles perfect start is not a fluke. It is not a byproduct of playing teams that are not as good as the Orioles.
The O's are 4-0 because they have been playing a brand of baseball we have not seen since the late 80’s
Even in the late 90’s when the O’s last made the playoffs, they were made up of high-priced free agents and aging stars.
If you remember, the Oriole Way always began with good pitching and defense first. The last team I remember playing the Oriole Way and making it exciting for the fans was the 1989 “Why Not” team.
Three of the four starters to take the mound so far this year have received victories. The one starter who did not get a W, Chris Tillman, left after pitching six innings of hit-less baseball and arguably pitched the best game of the four starters so far.
Baltimore's starters have pitched 26 innings and have only allowed two runs. They have walked nine, struck out 20 and have a staff ERA of 0.75. The staff is averaging just 4.22 hits per nine innings to start and each, other than Tillman, has shown a knack for working their way out of trouble.
Aside from great starting pitching, the bullpen has held their own. While not as good as the starters, Baltimore's relievers have tossed 10 innings, allowing just two runs on seven hits.
Defense has always been a part of the Oriole way and good defense has been a factor to start this season. The O's have committed just one error in 169 chances to begin the season and have made a few highlight-reel plays.
Yesterday, Felix Pie made a running catch that required him to run a good 50 yards, saving a double or possibly a triple. Nick Markakis's game saving catch on Saturday night was a play I have seen on highlight shows every night since he made the catch.
The Orioles are solid with speed in the outfield and they have a good hard-nosed, smart bunch of ballplayers on the dirt in the infield.
While the Orioles are not knocking the cover off the ball like the Texas Rangers, they are using timely hitting to win games. They are also running the bases a lot smarter than I have seen in recent years.
The O's are taking extra bases making their runs stick. Yesterday, JJ Hardy took second base after he lined a shot into left field. Brian Roberts hit a three-run home run rendering the aggressive and smart base running unnecessary, but it was the kind of play we have not seen consistently in many years at Camden Yards.
Hardy has already hit three doubles and scored four runs from the nine hole and speaking of Brian Roberts, with a pair of three-run dingers this season, he leads the leagues with eight RBI.
Nick Markakis seems very comfortable in the No. 2 slot. Markakis is batting .429 to start the season and has been making pitchers work for every strike they throw him.
Keep in mind the heart of the order has yet to produce. Free agents Vladimir Guerrero, Derrek Lee and Mark Reynolds are batting a combined .178 and if you throw Adam Jones into the mix, that drops to a .164 through four games.
It is a long season and these guys will hit just as Roberts, Markakis and Hardy will cool, but it is a good sign to be undefeated without your power hitters smacking the ball out of the park.
Baltimore has already matched their longest winning streak from all of last season and if they can win tomorrow night will have matched their longest winning streak in the last two seasons. They will also equal the start of the 1970 Orioles, who went on to win the World Series that year.
I am not saying the Orioles are going to the World Series, but remember O's fans, this is not something new. This is an extension of what began last season when Buck Showalter took over 106 games into the 2010 season.
Showalter's team has yet to trail in four games this season and since he took over last season the O's are an American League best 38-23.
It was fitting the Orioles honored Earl Weaver yesterday. Current O's skipper Buck Showalter elected to catch yesterday's honorary first pitch from legendary O's skipper Earl Weaver. Showalter then proceeded to watch his team beat the Tigers just as Weaver's teams used to beat many opponents.
Yesterday and through the first four games, Showalter’s boys have pitched well, played solid defense, run the bases well and let us not forget the O’s (Brian Roberts) have a couple of Weaver’s all-time favorite play, the three-run home run.
Through the last 57 games of the 2010 season and through the first four games this season, Showalter has the O's executing just like Earl used to have his boys of summer playing.
The Orioles way was a brand of baseball that made Baltimore, not the New York Yankees, the winningest franchise from the mid 60’s through the mid 90’s.
Remember a few years ago when baseball experts said the Tampa Rays could never do it, they could never hold on and win the AL East.
This team is capable of winning 90-plus games playing this way.
You get the sense that the Orioles play to win the inning and that is how you win games.
So yes fans, it is OK to get excited about the playoffs because if Buck Showalter can continue to get this team to play the Oriole way, then October will return to Camden Yards.
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