Over Labor Day weekend the Orioles took two-of-three from Tampa, which probably made the Yankees smile. While they beat the O’s in walkoff fashion in yesterday’s series finale, they weren’t smiling anymore. After winning the Tampa series at home, the Orioles steamrolled into Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to rain on the Yankees’ parade. The problem with how this series went down is that the Yankees won the finale, and did so in dramatic fashion. So in a way it almost feels like the Orioles lost the series due to the order of the events. Nevertheless, the Orioles got excellent starting pitching in this series, much as they’ve done throughout Buck Showalter’s tenure as manager. One stat that jumped out at me during yesterday’s game was that during the Orioles’ recent four-game winning streak, they hit .406 with runners in scoring position. Wasn’t that a sore spot overall for much of the first half of the season?!
While those few months make a difference, the Orioles are still out of contention. However unlike in past years, they’re catching the hearts and minds of Baltimore. Gary Thorne mentioned on MASN yesterday that the resurrgence under Showalter has turned into a national story. That’s certainly easy for a local play-by-play guy to say, however keep in mind that Thorne also works for ESPN, and thus very much has his pulse on various stories in the national sports scene. That said, as much of America enjoyed picnics and cook-outs on Monday afternoon, the Orioles set to beating the Yankees in game one of the series. Brian Matusz took the ball against AJ Burnett of NY, and did so with about as much success as one could have. In six innings of work Matusz threw 106 pitches, giving up three runs over five hits. The thing with Matusz is that he’s a southpaw. One can look at Jake Arrieta and see a guy that has similar stuff to Matusz, however a left-hander with that kind of moxie is something that’s fairly rare, and can be deadly. Matusz also has an effective changeup that he mixes in with his fastball which has seemingly left opposing hitters perplexed of late. On Monday the Orioles got doubles from Caesar Izturis and Josh Bell; if you can get that kind of production from the bottom of the order, you’re really in good shape.
Speaking of Arrieta, he got the ball on Tuesday night, with the same kind of result. Arrieta went 6.1 innings, spreading two runs over eight hits. The big story in this game was that Yankee starter C.C. Sabathia was going for his twentieth victory of the season. Common sense dictated that he’d get it seeing that they were playing a team in the Orioles who was out of contention. I might also add that Sabathia has owned the O’s over time as well. Not on this night. Sabathia also pitched 6.1 innings, but gave up five runs. Joe Girardi seemed to keep Sabathia in a bit longer in hopes that his offense would put something across to get C.C. that twentieth victory. If anything, that hurt his cause more, as the O’s were hitting. Noland Reimold even hit his third homer of the season in the win, a moon shot to left field. This was a classic AL East game in that the Orioles added on runs when they needed to, giving Arrieta another win under his belt.
Yesterday the O’s had a chance to sweep their first series against the Yankees since 1986, and it appeared that they would do so. With Koji Uehara coming in to close out a 2-1 Oriole victory, suddenly Nick Swisher stepped to the plate. You know the rest…walkoff home run. However Brad Bergesen’s effort in this game should not go unnoticed. One run over four hits in 6.1 innings; seemingly all of the Oriole starters’ lines are very similar of late. We know that the Orioles have won their share of games in this fashion…just ask the White Sox, Angels, Red Sox, and Nationals. Live by the sword, die by the sword. As I said above, if you’re going to drop one game in a series you probably don’t want it to be the last one, as it leaves a sour taste in your mouth. However that should not be the case for the Orioles, as they’re doing the unthinkable as we speak. If this team wins 12 more games in 2010, they’ll have one win more than last season. Did anyone foresee this even being in the argument at 2-16? This season hasn’t been kind to Birdland, but this year’s end will pay dividend’s to new beginning’s in 2011. The O’s were far from the best team this year to this point, however their heart should be uncontested.