Twice this season, the Orioles have taken a four-game series from the Chicago White Sox, who continue to lead the American League Central.
Reason to be proud?
“It is for today,” manager Buck Showalter said following a 5-3 victory at Camden Yards. “There’s another challenge starting tomorrow.”
That challenge takes the Orioles to the Bronx, where a three-game sweep would put them in a first-place tie with the Yankees in the American League East.
Zach Britton, optioned after the game, allowed one run and seven hits in eight innings and struck out a career-high 10 batters.
“He had some balls elevated early and didn’t look too promising early on, but he and Taylor (Teagarden) made some adjustments,” Showalter said. “I thought Taylor did a great job. I think today was his best game catching. And Zach’s not easy to catch. There’s a lot of movement, late life. We lost track around 15 balls he blocked that were tough blocks.
“Zach was good. Been working on fielding his position with Rick (Adair) and some other stuff. That kind of played out today. I thought it helped him.
“Rick was telling me, I don’t know if he had a three-ball count all day. Maybe one. Try not to get too fine with the sinker and just throw it and let the movement take it off the barrel of the bat.”
Britton was held back and later shut down in spring training because of inflammation in his shoulder, which makes his latest run of success all the more impressive.
“On the flip side of that, it bodes well for him,” Showalter said. “Everybody else is pretty much in that physical area where he’s still under 100 innings. We talked about it two starts ago, he’s got the potential to maybe get stronger as the year goes on. I think he’s just now kind of, hopefully for us and him, finding his stride.”
No sense invoking the name “cavalry” anymore, but perhaps some of these young starters are feeling less pressure now that they’re not being counted on to carry so much of the pitching load.
“I wish it was that easy. It’s not,” Showalter said. “It’s a constant proving ground. There’s not always a concrete reason. This is hard to do. Pitching in the major leagues, in the American League East is as challenging as anything. That’s why people are so coveted that have the stuff and the makeup to do it. And it hardens you. Going through September last year, and now they’re going to get exposed to some September baseball, if they’re gonna bite, they’re gonna bite. You can’t hold down talent and you can’t hold down makeup. Not that anybody’s trying to suppress that. Sometimes, the process is longer than people think.”
The Orioles improved to 30-2 when their starter goes at least seven innings, and they’re 46-18 in games decided by two runs or fewer.
Now they head to the Bronx.
“We’ve got Toronto right after,” Showalter said, trying to minimize the hype surrounding their weekend series against the Yankees. “There’s a challenge around every corner. There’ll be questions. I’m proud that our players get to reap some of the benefits of the efforts they’ve put into this. We’ll focus on tomorrow, probably on the train ride, if anybody’s awake tonight.
“It will be fun. Could be fun if we win. Our guys aren’t going up there to experience the atmosphere. They’re gong to try to compete against the team we’re trying to catch.
“There’s landmines all through September. There were in August. There were in July. It’s a journey. It’s been fun to take it with them. We get the time of year where John Hart used to say, ‘The air gets a little cooler, the leaves are turning.’ There’s a crispness in the air that rejuvenates tired bodies when you’re playing meaningful games in September. Trust me, this group’s going to have fun with it. They will.”