James Baker: Losing got ya down?

I know that is true for me, so today I offer a soothing balm to remedy the sting of another loss. Lets all take a break from the gloom and doom, hop in the TARDIS and travel back to this day in that wild and wonderful year 1997.

Good morning everyone on the information super highway! I fired up my brand new 300mHz Pentium II today to bring you all digitized good news. Beginning tonight the Orioles will host Oakland in a quick two-game series after taking three of four from the A’s in Oakland just last week. The Orioles have done very well against the A’s this year winning seven of the nine meetings so far.

Tonight Scott Erickson will go be looking for his 14th win against a slightly struggling Carlos Reyes for the A’s.

It is good to be an Orioles fan right now, kids. Camden Yards is celebrating her fifth birthday in style. The Orioles have not trailed in their division at any point so far this season and with their consistent play and 5.5-game lead over the Yankees, it does not appear that is likely to change.

The day off yesterday allowed the Orioles a bit of a break after a hard fought, but successful (as usual!) series against the Anaheim Angles. Despite a rare rough game from reliever Arthur Rhodes in Game 2 the Orioles were able to secure a series win and win their 11th game in their last 14 attempts, thanks to some late-inning heroics from none other than the Ironman himself.

Jimmy Key pitched an admirable game but the O’s bats were silent for most of the night. Key left the night down 3-2 in the late innings. In the top of the eighth Orioles right fielder Geronimo Berroa led off with a walk, after a Rafael Palmeiro fly out, Cal Ripken strode to the plate; then on a 1-1 count launched a ball to deep left-center field to give the Orioles a 4-2 lead. Armando Benitez and Randy Myers cruised through the final six outs, Myers earning 34th save, and the Orioles got on the plane to return home winners yet again.

The rest of the month is a real opportunity for the Orioles as they have hit a kind of soft spot in their schedule. With series coming up against the Royals, Twins and Athletics the Birds have the chance to really pad their record for the home stretch and as well as they are playing they can still use it. The Orioles have won most of this season based around pitching and defense.

The Orioles’ team batting average of .268 is good enough for ninth in the league, well below teams like the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees who are one and two, respectively. But for what they lack in bats they make up for in arms and gloves. The Orioles’ staff currently holds the second best ERA in the league at 3.91. They are one of only three American League teams with sub-four team ERAs and their defense has been nothing short of elite.

The Orioles’ defense is only allowing 4.2 runs a game, lowest in the AL.

With arms and gloves as reliable as that you can get by having a relatively average offense, though I know we would all like to see some stronger showings from the bats going into the post season, which at this point is all but certain for this squad for the second year in a row. It is only a matter of time.

There, wasn’t that fun? I know that seems like a long time ago, well because it was. We had no idea what we were in for did we? Who knew that would be the last time in more than a decade the Orioles would see a winning record let alone the post season? So now we sit here, in a world of staggering advances in technology, politics and culture and the Orioles continue to languish.

If there is anything we can take away from those teams of the 90s it is this; pitching and defense got us through. Those Oriole teams did not have a world-beating offense but they had elite pitching and defense. If the Orioles ever want to get back to those days again, that is the way they are going to have to do it. Yesterday Brian Matusz pitched a complete game shutout for the Norfolk Tides it was his third very strong start in a row; hopefully that is a sign of things to come.

James Baker blogs about the Orioles at Oriole Post. His observations about the O’s appear as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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