When the Orioles come to bat tonight against the Toronto Blue Jays, they will face an inspired old nemesis.
Pitching for the Jays will be Tom Candiotti (10-11, 2.49), who after six years in the majors is finding out what it's like to play for a contender.
"Every game, every inning, every pitch means something," said Candiotti, who was traded from Cleveland. "It's a pennant race. We're in a dogfight with Detroit. Everything means a lot. With Cleveland, it was kind of tough to get motivated when you're 25, 30 games out."
But even when he played for one of the worst teams in baseball, Candiotti found a way to beat the Birds. He is 7-5, lifetime.
Currently, Candiotti has the No. 1 earned run average in the AL, going into tonight's matchup (7:35, HTS) with Ben McDonald (5-7, 5.21).
"I spent, really, my whole career with a team that's out of first place," said Candiotti, who will turn 34 Saturday. "I can empathize with the Orioles . . . this year has to be frustrating for them -- a lot of injuries, some of their pitchers haven't been panning out like they thought. But they've still got talent."
As for McDonald, Candiotti said, "he just hasn't matured and put it together yet. He has the arm. He has the ability. He just needs a little time."
Kind of like the time Candiotti needed to adjust to the Blue Jays, or for the Blue Jays to adjust to him. They had never had a knuckleball pitcher before.
"Our catchers needed a little time to learn how the ball is going to react," Candiotti said. "It's not an easy job for a catcher. It just moves crazy."
Imagine what the Orioles face tonight -- a familiar face and an all-too familiar pitch, wrapped in newfound inspiration.