Yeah, yeah, I know the Ravens season starts on Monday, Joe Flacco was lights out in Preseason, and the offense looks ready for a monster year. And sure the Grand Prix was this weekend with a thrilling last lap and a huge win by Ryan Hunter-Reay that caused a tectonic shift in the season leaderboard (And also causing half the town to self-flagellate over the traffic, DEAR GOD THE TRAFFIC!).
But I'm gonna talk about dem der O's! Maybe I'm beating a dead horse, but have you ever tried beating a live horse? They are large and scary and even if you succeed, you still get shot in the face by a farmer. The Orioles just took two out of three in Yankee Stadium to pull within two games of first place with twenty-nine to go. That's right, the O's are in it to win it, Baltimore!
And what an absolutely thrilling weekend it was for we Baltimorons. After taking three out of four from the White Sox, the Orioles went into the Bronx Zoo without so much as an off day to recuperate-though the good folks at the MLB scheduling office made sure the Yankees got their beauty rest-and played great baseball. The series started with an absolute gem of a performance Friday night by right-hander Miguel Gonzalez throwing seven shutout innings before giving way to the bullpen who held on for a 6-1 win. The win gave them their 18th for the month and put the Orioles fifteen games over .500 for the first time since the end of the 97 season which happens to be the last time the Orioles went to the playoffs.
Saturday's game bore the hallmark of tragedy (BTW, if you've never seen the Hallmark Tragedy line of greeting cards, it's a must. Who else makes a Garfield themed, "Sorry your toddler was lost in a flood" card?). A series sweep would have put the Birds in a first place tie. O's took an early 3-0 lead and behind another strong performance by Wei-Yin Chen, went into the seventh up 3-1. But these are the Yankees, the 196 Million Dollar Men (Rounded up from the nearest $195,998,004), and they weren't going out easy.
Pedro Strop entered the game with two-on and two out in the bottom of the seventh. Strop's ERA is a stellar 1.86, he's got three saves to go along with his 23 holds, he's been positively stellar all season, and the O's had won thirteen straight one-run games. He promptly walked Ichiro Suzuki to load the bases and then walked Derek Jeter to tie the game. Still needing only one out to end the inning, right-fielder stepped to the plate and smashed a one-hopper to shortstop J.J. Hardy. Hardy has been the Gibraltar of the O's infield. Hardy leads all major league shortstops in fielding and through all of the seasons ups and downs, the man has been unflappable. He booted it and what would be the winning run scored. Yankees 4, Orioles 3.
It was ugly, it was sad, and a lot of young teams would have folded. After the game catcher Matt Wieters, who had homered in the loss, said "We're going to go out here and have a chance to win the series tomorrow, and that's our mindset." It may not seem like a spectacular speech. That's just what players say after tough losses, but Wieters has been as tough as they come all season, and you could tell he meant it.
The Orioles came out on Sunday and positively pummeled the Yankees. The Bullpen, which may be the best in baseball, came up big in relief of Chris Tillman who left with a sore elbow after three innings, throwing seven innings of one-run ball. Mark Reynolds, who had carried the O's on Friday with two home runs, hit another pair on Sunday, and your Baltimore Orioles took it to the big-baddies from the Bronx 8-3. Now the Birds travel to the Great White North for three in Toronto before coming back to B-more on Thursday to face those very same Yankees four more times.
Like I said, the car racing was cool, and it will be nice to have the Ravens back, but the birds could very easily be in first place by the end of the week. Folks, this is damn special. The Orioles fear no one (I would add "And nothing," but I have reason to believe Buck Showalter is terrified of clowns and Nick Markakis is apparently deathly afraid of razors.) and Camden Yards is going to be rocking. It's going to be a playoff atmosphere right here in Birdland. Savor it, and get down to the yard to send the Yankees fans scampering like we did with those damned Blo-Sux!