The Orioles' loss to Cleveland Thursday night continued a recent slide that has fueled pessimism for some fans. At this exact time of year in 1957, as the O's faced the same team on the diamond, the opposite scenario played out during Baltimore's first non-losing season since moving from St. Louis in 1954. Back then, there was plenty of reason for optimism in June, thanks to some remarkable work by the O's pitching staff.
The '57 Birds took three of four from the Indians during a series in Baltimore that ran from June 28-30. The wins were part of a late-June streak where the O's won eight of 11 and posted a season-best 19-11 record for the month that took them from 15-24 to 34-35. The streak was critical in helping the team to its 76-76 finish.
The first game of the Cleveland set, a 6-0 victory, extended a run of four consecutive shutouts by Orioles pitchers that began with a win against Detroit and continued with two wins against the Kansas City Athletics. Ray Moore picked up the series-opening win against Cleveland with nine innings of three-hit ball. Moore's was literally a lights-out effort as the Memorial Stadium power failed with one out in the ninth causing a five-minute delay.
Moore's complete-game shutout followed complete-game efforts by Hal "Skinny" Brown, Billy Loes and Connie Johnson. The four straight shutouts tied an American League record. Meanwhile, Moore's nine blank frames ran the pitching staff's streak of scoreless innings to 41. Cleveland would score in the fifth inning of the following day's game to protect its own record, set in 1948, of 47 consecutive scoreless innings.
Earlier this month, the Orioles posted consecutive shutouts against the Braves behind a complete-game, one-hit gem from Jason Hammel and a seven-inning effort by Wei-Yin Chen. I was one of many fans thrilled by the O's unexpected pitching bounty. Imagine watching four consecutive complete-game shutouts from a quartet even more surprising than Hammel and Chen have been this season. For Johnson, it would be his only winning season in the bigs.
The 1957 shutout streak is significant enough to be mentioned in the Orioles' historical timeline on the team's Web site as follows: "An indication of better days appeared in '57 as the Birds finished at .500 for the first time. Veteran Connie Johnson (14-11) led the charge of a surprising Orioles pitching staff that saw four pitchers throw shutouts on consecutive days in late June."
As the Orioles enjoyed their first non-losing season in 1957, Cleveland endured its first losing season since 1946 with a 76-77 record. The Indians' losing record ended an impressive run of success that saw the team win the second of its two World Series titles in 1948, post a franchise-best 111 wins to capture the American League pennant in 1954, and have six straight seasons of 90 or more wins between 1950 and 1955.
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.