The Orioles are six games above .500 for the first time since July 20, 2005. That’s impressive and depressing at the same time.
Wilson Betemit gave the Orioles their first walk-off home run since Nolan Reimold on Aug. 10, 2011 against the White Sox.
The Orioles have won 57 straight games when allowing two runs or fewer. Their last loss was Aug. 20, 2010, when Texas beat them 2-0.
The Orioles improved to 5-6 when trailing after seven innings. Last year, they were 5-83 when behind after the seventh.
Manager Buck Showalter needs one more win for 1,000. Maybe he’ll get it against the Yankees in the Bronx.
Wouldn’t that be special?
Here’s what Showalter had to say following today’s 5-2 victory:
“That was fun,” he said. “Tommy (Hunter) pitched well. I thought we played a real good defensive game, which was probably the difference in us being in the game. Got four or five plays. Mark (Reynolds) played real well at first base. Adam (Jones) made a couple good plays. Robert (Andino) seems to impact the game defensively every night. And Nicky (Markakis) threw another guy out at second base. Those are the things I dwell on looking back at it, but it was fun in the ninth inning. I was trying to keep Tommy Hunter off the field in his sliding shorts. I don’t think he made it, did he?”
Hunter allowed two runs over seven innings.
“Command was better, some counts in his favor,” Showalter said. “I think Tommy’s exactly where he’s going to be fastball-wise as we go forward, and it’s kind of forced him in a way to pitch a little bit more. But I thought he had a crisper fastball today, especially up on the zone. Got some fly balls. But when you’re playing defense like they were playing behind him, it gives him a lot of confidence to attack the strike zone. This was as perfect a day to play baseball weather-wise that you can pick. When you see two guys pitch as well as (Bartolo) Colon and Tommy did, it’s really remarkable. It was a very offensive-friendly day.”
Colon was cruising along, retiring 11 in a row at one point, but Grant Balfour let two inherited runner score in the ninth on Matt Wieters game-tying double.
“That’s what (Colon’s) been doing for a while,” Showalter said. “People ask what’s so tough about him. He’s got such a strong hand, such strong fingers. You see the way he makes the ball move across the strike zone. He can make it go laterally, he can make it go down. I bet he didn’t throw 10 breaking balls all day today, but he’s got like four different pitches with his fastball. He’s tough. But the key is keeping it close, within striking distance, with the pitching.”
Wieters was 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position before his double off the left field fence in the ninth.
“That’s kind of news to me,” Showalter said. “I don’t dwell on those things, and I know it’s something everybody looks at. Last year, he went through a period where it was just the opposite, so he’ll be as good as he’s capable of being. He’s not one of those guys who dwells on previous at-bats, successes or failures. He moves on to the next challenge. I thought the way the ball was carrying he might have gotten enough of it.”
Nolan Reimold robbed Kurt Suzuki of a home run by casually reaching up and making the catch at the top of the fence, just as the ball looked like it would settle into a fan’s glove.
“I couldn’t tell if the fans were yelling because he caught it or because they had a souvenir there,” Showalter said. “That was a pretty smooth deke. I can’t tell you I really appreciated it at my age.”
As for being six games above .500, Showalter said, “It beats the alternative. It’s like the right side of the earth. I just like seeing a lot of our guys getting a return for what they’ve been putting into it from a team standpoint. This group has a good relationship with each other. That’s why we talked about everybody playing different positions. We’re going to need contributions from everybody to have the type of year we want to have.”
The Orioles are heading to New York and Boston for a six-game, seven-day road trip. Texas, Tampa Bay and New York come welcome them back to Camden Yards.
“The Yankees are playing great again,” Showalter said. “We all knew it. It happens every year. People talk about these really good teams when they’re kind of hovering for the first week or so and then they take off. Both New York and Boston are playing well, and then we’ve got Texas behind them. We will take them one day at a time.”
What’s the key to another series win?
“Pitching, pitching, pitching,” Showalter said.
“You get deeper in games and you make runs matter and you make runs stand up, there’s a morale that develops with a club, instead of constantly going, ‘How much is going to be enough?’ You always try to create a margin of error. When you get a tack-on run, it means something. Tommy Hunter pitched seven innings today, and that’s as key as anything that happened today.
“I’ll take some pleasure in seeing them feel good about themselves, but they’re mature enough to understand the challenge ahead of us and how long the season is. But I’ve been real proud of them. Since the first day we got to camp, there’s been a good karma bout them.”
The game drew an announced crowd of 31,793, and this place was rocking in the ninth.
“I’ve got to tell you, we had a good crowd and a beautiful day like this, you really want them to enjoy the day and come back and be part of that again,” Showalter said. “I do look at it like that. You want them to say, ‘This is fun. It was a great day for the Orioles and I want to be back.’ That’s part of the trust we’ve got to regain.”