There's been a lot of baseball under the bridge (to mess up a metaphor) and those bearded blokes from Beantown have got to be a little nervous about the Birds. And before I go on, I really need to talk about those beards. I'm all for esprit de corps, but these BoSox beards are getting to be a bit much, I half-expect them to take the mound in a horse-drawn bullpen car and raise a barn during the seventh-inning stretch. Boston's dugout looks like the boy's bench at a Mennonite mixer, but I digress. After years of suffering through Fenway South, the Orioles have the Red Sox's number, and Camden Yards is rocking out in orange.
The Red Sox came into town last week for a big four-game series with a three-and-a-half-game lead on the then-third-place Orioles. Since Buck took over and ended the Red Sox playoff hopes at the end of 2011, Baltimore's been beating Boston like a drum with a terrible, terrible accent. The O's took 13 out of 18 from Boston last season, and after winning three of four, they're up five and two on the season series and had moved past the Yankees, just a game and a half back. It's been nearly two years since Boston's been able to take two in a row from the Birds. The Red Sox used to haunt the Orioles, but these days the Birds are the Dr. Peter Venkman of baseball: They ain't afraid of no ghost, and there's no reason they should be.
At the plate, Chris "Crush" Davis clubbed Boston pitching to the tune of six RBI and added a pair of dingers to his league-leading total of 23; Nick Markakis was sizzling, throwing up a four-hit game on Sunday; Manny Machado was en fuego going nine for 19 with four doubles, while stretching his hit streak to 14; and it looks like the Orioles have finally found a DH in Danny Valencia, who hit .444 in the series. On the mound, the starters made it into the sixth in each game, the bullpen was simply phenomenal, pitching to a 1.05 ERA and guiding the Orioles to a 13-inning win in the first game, and closer Jim Johnson has been hurling the BoSox Kryptonite, only allowing a lone single in five innings this year against the hated AL East rival.
OK, so the Birds beat up on Boston a bit. That's great, but there's still a lot of baseball to play. Sure there is! At the time of this writing, the Orioles still have 92 games on the schedule including the red-hot Tigers, who are next on the docket. The AL East has four teams with winning records and is, top to bottom, the best division in baseball, so this is hardly a two-team race. The Rays have stellar pitching, and the Yankees are still the Yankees, so expect some big-name hired guns to show up in pinstripes between now and the July 31 trade deadline, and even the last place Blue Jays have won five-straight and look poised to threaten relevance. Still, at the moment, Boston is the team to beat, and it sure is nice to get that bean-eating, lobster-flavored monkey off our backs. Want to know how far off our backs we got it? Red Sox starter Jon Lester had owned the Orioles, going a Globetrotters-over-Generals 14-0 against them in his first 20 head-to-head starts. On Father's Day, the Orioles beat him for the second time in a row. They got that monkey off their backs, whacked it with a stick, stuck it in a pot, boiled it alive, and took the time to realize it's not nearly as good as steamed crabs.
Even if it doesn't come down to a Boston-Baltimore brawl for the top spot in the East, the schedule has guaranteed the rivalry will have huge repercussions in the pennant race. The two teams will square off another dozen times down the stretch-that's more than 10 percent of their remaining games, including six of the last 12 of the season. When it comes down to the wire, if either of these teams is to make it to the postseason, it's going to be through the other, and right now, I like the Orioles' odds. That said, I really need to take another moment to talk about those Red Sox beards.
They say you could set your watch to Johnny Unitas' haircut, well, the Red Sox facial hair could fuck up the time on a sundial. Half the time I thought Jonny Gomes' batting helmet had a chin strap until I realized it was either his beard or a live chinchilla clinging to his jaw. Are they putting on a musical about lumberjacks? Taking their ZZ Top karaoke night way too seriously? Trying to pick up a bartending shift at the Golden West? If I had one wish, it would be that some kid would get a wish from the Make-A-Wish foundation and wish to shave the Red Sox's starting lineup like a herd of angora sheep. Seriously, Baltimore, we are nothing if not a giving people. Go to the CVS, buy a bag of disposable razors, and mail them to Hideously Bearded Americans, c/o The Boston Red Sox, 4 Yawkey Way, Boston, MA, 02215.