Plenty of encouraging — maybe surprising — signs five games in
One week into the season, and Orioles fans have to be ecstatic (and not just because there’s a new, intrepid web site providing you additional commentary, continual interaction and razor-sharp wit).
These Orioles, the ones that are supposed to finish last in the American League East – despite placing third or above in each of the past four seasons – are baseball’s only undefeated team.
Soak that one in. Major League Baseball’s only undefeated team.
That label will end soon, perhaps as soon as this afternoon against the Boston Red Sox and their new ace, David Price.
But the 5-0 start ties for the best in franchise history with the 1970 club, a World Series winner which is considered one of the greatest teams ever assembled.
I’m not predicting this club will reach those heights, but five straight wins are always welcomed, no matter when the streak comes. Consider last year, the Orioles longest win streak of the season was six games, from June 7 to June 13.
Here a few encouraging signs:
The starters are fine so far
Remember that much maligned starting rotation of the Orioles? Well, through five games – yes, a terribly small sample size – the rotation is 3-0 with a 2.28 ERA. That’s two starts by Chris Tillman, and one each from Ubaldo Jimenez, Yovani Gallardo and Vance Worley.
Who knows what happens as the season continues? But most so-called experts – including myself – believed the rotation would be the anchor that holds this team down.
“I understand why people might say that,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “They gave us a chance to win, all five games. If we do that, we’ll have some fun this summer.”
More help on the way
The argument can be made that Kevin Gausman is the club’s most talented starter despite his inexperience. Battling shoulder issues, Gausman made an injury rehab appearance at Double-A Bowie on Sunday. The line wasn’t great; he allowed four hits, one walk and one unearned run in two-plus innings while striking out two batters. He threw 47 pitches, 29 strikes. So there’s plenty of rust there.
But the important thing is he feels fine. And he’s on track to join the team April 19. That’ll make the rotation deeper, which is what you need for a 162-game season.
Manny is the man
We all watched Manny Machado turn into a superstar last year. Now the next step is for him to carry a team to the postseason. Well, he’s done his part so far. He’s homered in three different games and has a .905 slugging percentage.
He had four hits on Sunday, his fourth career, four-hit game, and is batting .429.
You can tell he is motivated to be in the same conversation with contemporaries Mike Trout and Bryce Harper when baseball’s best players are discussed.
The bullpen is as good as advertised
For all the criticism heaped on the rotation before the year began, there was almost as much praise for the bullpen. And we’re seeing why again.
The bullpen threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings Sunday and has allowed just three runs in 21 1/3 innings in five games (2-0, 1.27 ERA).
The concern there, of course, is that the bullpen has already thrown that many innings – more than four a game so far. But some of that has been weather-related.
The Orioles rotation has to go deeper, but you have to like how Zach Britton, Darren O’Day and Brad Brach already are in midseason form. And lefty Brian Matusz should be back Thursday from the disabled list.
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