I guess it’s up to fans and the media to be impressed with how the Orioles have matched last year’s victory total with more than a month remaining in the regular season.
Does manager Buck Showalter allow himself a few minutes to step back and appreciate the accomplishment?
“No form or fashion,” he said following tonight’s 8-2 victory over the Blue Jays. “I don’t think you’re going to find anybody in that locker room who knows that unless you tell them. I think if someone had told us that was going to be the benchmark this year, they’d ask, ‘Who says that?’ Our guys from Day 1 in spring training have a loftier goal than having a better record than last year.”
Steve Johnson overcame a rough two-run, 24-pitch first inning to retire 14 of the last 17 batters he faced and collect his second major league win.
“I think, in fairness to him, a little rusty from some inactivity early, but he settled in nicely,” Showalter said. “He was up in that first inning and he made a good adjustment and attacked the hitters. We’re proud of him. He wasn’t in a good place early and he made the adjustment. That’s good stock. I thought he made some adjustments he had to make out there because he was feeling for it a little bit early and then he fell in line.”
Catcher Matt Wieters was a big help, throwing out three runners attempting to steal.
“Obviously, I’m the first guy to ever give Matt credit, but our pitchers have done a good job with something we challenged them with in the spring,” Showalter said. “Why wouldn’t you use a weapon like Matt to negate 90 feet as much as you can? And I think they’re second in the American League in stolen bases, so you know it’s going to be a challenge coming into the series. But Steve did a great job of mixing up his looks, and if you give Matt a chance, you’re going to like the outcome most of the time.”
The Orioles had some good at-bats against Blue Jays pitching and took advantage of two errors, a passed ball and other failures in execution.
“We got down 2-0 and nobody panicked, most of all Steve, and settled in,” Showalter said. “We knew coming in (Brandon) Morrow was going to be a challenge. He’s got electric stuff and you saw that early. He probably had an 80-90 pitch limit coming off (the DL), but you look at his hits-to-innings and strikeouts and everything, you can tell why they like him so much and why they missed him with the oblique issue he had. Sometimes anxiety sets in when you get behind early against a guy who’s carrying that type of stuff, but the key to that is Steve going back out there and hanging zeros.”
J.J. Hardy hit his 17th home run and came within a triple of the cycle.
“We all know what J.J.’s capable of,” Showalter said. “This guy hit 30 home runs and was one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball last year. To see him hit the ball the other way and then hit the ball in the gap, and then another hit - we all know what his potential is. Through thick and thin, he’s been consistent with his approach to the game and that’s been as much an example he sets handling the adversity that he’s had, as far as the challenges of hitting at the level that he spoiled us with last year.”