Could this be the turnaround?

O's hoping horrible start is behind them

  • Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, center, is greeted at home plate with high-fives from Adam Jones, left, and Nick Markakis after his three-run homer in the fifth inning against Boston.
Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, center, is greeted at home plate… (Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth…)
May 02, 2010|By Kevin Cowherd

Maybe they were just waiting for the hot weather.

Maybe that's what you have to do to wake up these Orioles: Give them a sticky, 90-degree day in May and a chance to sweep the Boston Red Sox at home for the first time since the Clinton administration.

Whatever the reason, the Orioles played their best all-around game of the young season Sunday in a thrilling 3-2, 10-inning win over the Red Sox before 34,255 sweating fans at Camden Yards.

Let's go over some of the highlights (because who knows when you'll see this kind of complete performance again?):

There was Ty Wigginton delivering the game-winning hit and taking another shaving cream pie in the face.

There was Kevin Millwood pitching a gutsy eight innings and again showing why he has been the team's best offseason pickup.

There was great defense from Miguel Tejada and Nolan Reimold, and Will Ohman coolly striking out the side in the nerve-rattling ninth inning after giving up a leadoff single.

And if you've watched this team from the beginning of the season, watched it stumble through one of the most horrible Aprils it has ever had, you were left wondering: Could this be the start of the big turnaround it so desperately needs?

Maybe, say the Orioles, low-keying it as they always do.

But, oh, did they need this kind of weekend for their battered confidence.

So maybe it was ironic to hear country music blaring in the clubhouse after the game, especially when you noticed it was a Charlie Daniels song, "In America," with lyrics that include: "You never did think that it ever would happen."

A lot of people didn't.

A lot of people wondered whether the Orioles were capable of putting together an all-around game like this against a quality opponent like the Red Sox, who are down right now, sure, but still expected to contend again in the powerful American League East.

"It was just a tremendous weekend, a lot of fight in the team," Dave Trembley, the embattled manager, said when it was over. "You know, sometimes you come to the ballpark and you don't know what you're going to get. Today, when I walked through the clubhouse, I felt we were going to win."

How big did Millwood come up in this game?

The guy scattered five hits in eight innings in the brutal heat, threw 62 of his 109 pitches for strikes and battled his butt off in the eighth inning, when he looked gassed and the Red Sox threatened.

All he did was show his new team the size of his heart and show the rest of the Orioles' starters what you have to do to keep your team in the game.

"In all honesty, I think most guys felt that the worst part about it was we couldn't get Millwood the win," Wigginton said. "This guy's been nothing but a rock for us."

Yeah, we should probably mention that: Millwood didn't get the win — again.

This time it went to Matt Albers, who pitched the 10th inning for his fourth strong relief outing in a row after it was thought he might be sent down to Triple-A Norfolk last week.

So now Millwood is 0-3 with a 3.15 ERA. Yes, it's practically unheard of to have an ERA that low and no wins after six starts.

But in his previous five starts, the guy got just 13 runs of support from his new team, just nine while he was in the game.

You talk about a "Welcome to Baltimore" April for the big guy.

But through it all, Millwood has been his usual laconic, uncomplaining self and a tremendously steadying influence on the other four pitchers in the Orioles' rotation.

"He's the best guy I've seen since I've been here," Trembley said. "He's our No. 1 pitcher in more ways than just a top-of-the-rotation guy.

"I mean, you saw a clinic today. ... He knows how to pitch around people. The guy is tenacious. He fights."

Sure, you can make a case for Tejada as another offseason acquisition who has worked out well.

After two hits Sunday, Miggi is batting .305 with four homers and 13 RBIs, second only to Wigginton in both departments.

He's batting .436 in his past 10 games and has had seven multi-hit games in that span.

And his defense has been terrific lately. He made a sensational play in the sixth inning Sunday when he backhanded Marco Scutaro's grounder down the third base line, set himself and threw a rocket to first to nip Scutaro by a step.

But me, I still give the nod to Millwood as the new guy who has had the biggest impact on this team.

So now we'll see whether this great sweep of the Red Sox helps turn things around for this team.

The schedule doesn't get any easier. Three in New York against the Yankees, starting tonight. Then three in Minnesota against the 16-9 Twins.

If the Orioles are serious about turning things around, now would be a good time to start.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.

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