One has to wonder when the next time the Tampa Rays will decide to “turn back the clock.” Last night in St. Petersburg the O’s wore all-orange uniforms ala the 1971 team and the Rays wore the uniform of the Tampa Tarpons (a minor league team “back in the day”). In reality, the 1971 Orioles only wore the all-orange for a few games; however the uniforms definitely added an interesting dynamic to the ballgame. Nevertheless, the Orioles proved that the uniform doesn’t bear any relevance to the result, as they still beat the Tampa Rays by the score of 5-0. Jeremy Guthrie had a few struggles (with walks) however he ultimately pitched a two-hit shutout over six innings. The shutout was preserved in the final three innings by Koji Uehara and Michael Gonzalez.
There was one thing in the first inning that really struck me about the Orioles: smart base running. Adam Jones hit a liner with two on in the first that concluded with a play at the plate where Luke Scott put across the Orioles’ second run of the game. Jones had a sure double on the play, but with the Rays attempting to get Scott out at home Jones was easily able to take third base. This should be baseball 101, however it was those kinds of common sense aspects of the game that have been absent to this point for the Orioles. Earlier in the year we might have seen a player cruise into second base standing up and watch the play at the plate. Last night Adam Jones alertly took third, which in my opinion shows a certain attention to detail that we haven’t previously seen to this point.
All of this points to Oriole fans almost having an obligation to be optimistic about the future. This season has been really tough in Birdland, especially given the elevated expectations going into the year. However the fact that the O’s now have a distinct direction in which they’re going as opposed to sort of flailing in the wind and hoping that good things happen. As the Orioles are in Tampa this weekend, it serves as a reminder that almost the entire month of September will be spent playing AL East teams. The O’s will thus have a huge say in the playoff races. If they can continue playing games at this level, not only will they continue building moxie going into next season, however they’ll also make a few of their fellow American League teams resent the fact that they hired Buck Showalter. The O’s aren’t in the playoff race, but this isn’t over yet…not by a long shot!