The Orioles have won three straight games in three different cities.
Happens all the time, I’m sure.
Every Orioles starter collected a hit last night in a 9-3 win over the Blue Jays. The bottom three batters in the lineup belted home runs - Chris Davis, Caleb Joseph and Jonathan Schoop.
Who’s the last rookie before Joseph to homer three straight games in three different cities? Hello, Elias?
So many different contributors. So many memories for former catcher and current MASN analyst Rick Dempsey.
Dempsey walked over to me following a recent home game and talked about the similarities between this year’s club and the 1983 team that won the franchise’s last World Series. We spoke again yesterday, when I had more time to focus, and Dempsey also brought up the 1979 team.
That’s my favorite team, by the way. Bad ending, but “Orioles Magic” was born that year.
So what exactly is Dempsey seeing from the 2014 Orioles, who are 16 games above .500 and lead the American League East by five?
“It’s a team effort,” he said. “That’s the thing that sticks out for me a lot. It’s somebody different every night. Sort of like during ‘Orioles Magic.’ One night, Doug DeCinces hits a home run, the next night Eddie Murray, then Cal Ripken, then John Lowenstein or Gary Roenicke or Richie Dauer or myself. We would all kind of chime in. Something would always happen. There are parallels that really stick out for me.
“It’s not only the offense, but our defense back in those days was spectacular. Guys couldn’t take a quarter step off the bag or they’d get picked off. We were just so adept at doing the little things as a team that you just weren’t going to beat us on the ground. We executed plays very well. That’s like a lost art in the game today, pickoff plays and things like that. You don’t see very many managers doing that anymore, but in our day it added to what we had.
“We were very tough to beat when it was time to use our bullpen. We weren’t as specialized in the bullpen then as we are now with Buck (Showalter), but then again, the starters in my day went deeper in games. Scotty McGregor never came out of a game in the seventh inning. When we were forced to use guys like Tippy Martinez or Sammy Stewart or Tim Stoddard, they would do what the Orioles are doing now - completely slam the door. It was over with. They never scored on us when we went to the bullpen. And Flanny (Mike Flanagan) was tough as nails. You couldn’t get him out of a game. He could throw 150, 160 pitches in a game and come back four or five days later. It was amazing, the strength our pitching staff had.
“We didn’t even realize how good we were until all the smoke cleared and we were long into the winter.”
I decided to compare the stats and give thanks for the Internet.
The 1979 team ranked 18th in the majors with a .261 average, fourth in home runs with 181, third in ERA at 3.28 (the Expos were first at 3.14, if you care) and 21st (going highest to lowest) in errors with 105.
The 1983 team ranked ninth with a .269 average, first in home runs with 168, eighth in ERA at 3.64 and 16th in errors with 98.
Before last night, this year’s team ranked 11th with a .257 average, second in home runs with 133 (they hit three more to bypass the Blue Jays), 13th in ERA at 3.67 and 28th in errors with 51.
The Orioles are now tied with the Mariners for fewest errors with 51.
“The one thing I remember distinctly in 1983, right out of spring training I heard the coaches talking about how this team can win it all,” Dempsey said. “As players, you just don’t know how to evaluate yourself. But these coaches knew we had a real good shot at winning everything. We just kind of bought into it.
“We had the same kind of camaraderie with different things. Wherever we went, we went as a group and everybody looked out for each other. We knew we had a special thing. We had two seven-game losing streaks and nobody picked up ground on us. And it was just how things fell into place. You’ve got to have a little bit of luck at the same time. The better team you have, the better luck you have. We were always in position for something good to happen. That’s what I remember about that team. And this team is right there.
“The last couple of months they’re starting to win one- and two-run ballgames and that’s who we were back then. They’re playing even better defense than we played in ‘83. It’s a highlight film every single night, just to watch Manny Machado and Nick Markakis and Adam Jones. Look what the guys are doing on a platoon basis in left field. Steve Pearce has been spectacular, David Lough has been spectacular. They’re making those plays that kind of glue everything together, like, ‘OK, this is our year.’
“There’s just a lot going on right now that you’re really not supposed to talk about, but things really are falling into place. No team in baseball, even the Oakland A’s with a better record, compare to the Orioles with what they’re capable of doing. No team compares to the Orioles right now.
“We have a special group. It’s our window right now and they prove it every night.”