Memo to O's fans: Don't try to explain it

Maybe the best advice for Orioles fans at this point is just to enjoy the heck out of this improbable season while not trying to explain any of it.

How could you explain some of this:

* When the club's best starter, Jason Hammel, went on the disabled list on July 15, the Orioles were 46-42 and their starters' ERA was 4.74. Without him, the team is 21-14 and the starters' ERA has gone down to 4.68.

* On May 1, Chris Tillman had an ERA of 5.63 and batting average against of .287 - in Triple-A. Now he is 6-2 with an ERA 3.71 for the Orioles, and his batting average against in the AL is .245.

* The Orioles now regularly put two players in their starting lineup that were discarded this year by other teams. The Pirates released Nate McLouth and the Mets designated Omar Quintanilla for assignment before the Orioles acquired him for cash considerations. That looks like money well spent.

* Nick Markakis had never bat leadoff before in his life, but now is hitting .331 in 38 games atop the Orioles' order with 10 doubles, a triple, five homers, 16 RBIs and an OPS of .894 batting first. The Orioles are 22-16 with Markakis batting first.

* The Orioles have been a poor team in the first game of a series, going 16-24 this year. But then in the rest of the games of a series, they are 51-32, tied for the second-best mark in the AL.

* The Orioles have won four straight road series - against the Indians, Yankees, Rays and Tigers. A win tonight and they can add the Rangers to that list.

* The Orioles are 43-18 in games decided by one or two runs. Maybe when Geovany Soto hit that homer in the seventh inning last night to pull Texas within 5-3, the Orioles had the Rangers right where they wanted them.

What do you think? In your mind, what is most improbable about this season? What about this club has been most surprising to you? Is there anyone left that feels the Orioles will not be in the pennant race to the end of the year? If not, why do you feel that way?

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