Let’s start with this: The Orioles’ run of 14 losing seasons is over. The O’s 14th-inning victory Thursday against the Tampa Bay Rays was their 81st of the 2012 season, ensuring that they can do no worse than a .500 record.
If you follow the team closely, you know the numbers and therefore understand how appropriate it was for the Orioles to secure a non-losing fashion in the manner they did. Here’s a refresher: the Orioles are 27-7 in one-run games, 64-0 when they lead after the seventh inning and, thanks to 13 consecutive extra-inning victories, have a 13-2 record when they play free baseball. Outside observers will comment on the absurdity of those numbers while the locals will casually attribute it to Orioles Magic. Welcome to Baltimore, hon. Bohlieve.
I was putting the finishing touches on a blog post Thursday about the Orioles’ walk-off victories this season when it occurred to me that I should wait until the game with the Rays was complete. It’s been that kind of year. Sure enough, the O’s delivered with their second walk-off win in two days and their seventh overall in 2012. That’s pretty much in line with the O’s Magic era.
The Birds have had seven or more walk-off victories 14 times since 1979, when Doug Decinces’ two-out, two-run homer in June became known as “the night Oriole Magic was born.” The team’s most walk-off victories in one season since 1979 is 13. It happened in 1990 when the O’s finished 76-85 and in fifth place in the seven-team American League East. The second-most walk-off wins? That happened two years ago when the 2010 Birds had 12 such victories.
The manner in which the Orioles are winning their walk-off games is also in line with Oriole Magic. The classic song states “every game there’s a different star, that’s the magic of Orioles baseball,” and the O’s have that one covered in 2012. Six different players have gotten the winning hit in the team’s seven walk-off victories with Adam Jones being the only Oriole to do it twice. The others are Wilson Betemit, Matt Wieters, Taylor Teagarden, Nate McLouth and Manny Machado. The latter three players on that list weren’t even on the O’s roster when Betemit had the first walk-off victory of 2012 with a three-run homer against the A’s on April 29.
What’s truly unique - and remarkable - about Oriole Magic in 2012 isn’t the walk-off wins, it’s the lack of walk-off losses. The O’s have not lost a walk-off game in 2012. That’s never happened in the Oriole Magic era and, like many other things this season, is a credit to the bullpen.
The closest the team has come to a perfect walk-off record was 2001, when they had six walk-off wins and just one walk-off loss. Even some classic O’s teams have experienced plenty of walk-off losses. The Why Not? Orioles of 1989 had eight walk-off wins and five walk-off losses. The wire-to-wire Birds of 1997, with record-setting closer Randy Myers, had a 4-6 mark in walk-off games. And the World Series champion Orioles of 1983 were 8-6 in walk-off games.
Between the team’s incredible record in one-run games, their ability to hold a lead from the seventh inning onward and the fact that they’re winning walk-off games without losing any, the 2012 Orioles are providing an updated version of Oriole Magic.
Manny Machado’s game-winning single in the 14th inning ranked second on SportCenter’s Top 10 plays Friday morning and led anchor Stan Verrett to comment, “They’ve got the magic.” He’s right. That magic has simply taken on a new form this season.
Matthew Taylor blogs about the Orioles at Roar from 34. His ruminations about the Birds 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.