The first step to becoming a winning team is winning close games. If the Orioles have accomplished anything in the first two games of the season it's this: They've begun to prove to themselves they can come up with that clutch hit or key defensive play that wins the game.
Once a team has a few of those moments, they feed off of them. Soon, such moments become expected. That's when a team finally can say they have a winning mentality.
These first couple Orioles wins are a good start, and are laying the groundwork for that true "change in culture" we've heard so much about.
In Saturday's 3-1 win over the Rays, three plays determined the game. The first was Felix Pie throwing out the speedy B.J. Upton at home from left field in the bottom of the seventh to keep Tampa Bay scoreless. The second was of course Brian Roberts' three run homer in the eighth, and then Nick Markakis' highlight-reel catch to end the game.
If any of those three moments hadn't happened, the O's would be heading into Sunday just hoping to take the rubber game rather than the sweep. Unfortunately, the O's are more familiar with playing catch up in the third game of a series than being in the position of advantage. It's good for the 2011 players to feel early on just how much more comfortable the latter is.
Speaking of Saturday's game, Nick Markakis also made a nice grab earlier in the game. It makes me wonder how he's never won a Gold Glove. Not only is his defense spectacular, he's known around the league as the arm you don't want to test.
Just watch opposing third base coaches when the ball is hit to right field. You'll see the stop sign much more than an arm waving the runner home. The word is out - don't run on Markakis.
If everyone inside baseball knows this, then why has he been overlooked for the hardware?