TORONTO — About 48 hours ago, I wrote on this blog that the Orioles' weekend series against the Blue Jays in Toronto was more pivotal than the Yankees' sweep of the Birds earlier this week.
For them to talk about marked improvements in this team, they first had to show they could beat the Jays at the Rogers Centre, a place where the Orioles have lost 29 of their last 34 coming into the series.
You have to give the Orioles credit. They were down in the late innings both Friday and Saturday, only to provide some eighth and ninth inning heroics to take the first two games of the series against the Blue Jays.
Don't start printing playoff tickets just yet -- but the Orioles' play in Toronto is encouraging.
This might not have happened last year. Or several years before it, for that matter.
"Any time you can go on the road and win a series, especially starting off a long roadtrip," Orioles starter Jason Hammel said. "We’re confident. We’re not here to just roll over and go play baseball, we are out to play good baseball and inside the clubhouse we know we can compete in this league and we are very, very proud of that. And we are going to go out and give our best for nine innings or however many outs its takes, and it’s a very good start so far."
This time last year, the Orioles began 6-1 before losing eight straight and 11 of 13. They lost the final two of three to the Rangers, dropped two to New York were swept out of Cleveland in three.
They didn't get great starts from either starter, Tommy Hunter on Friday and Hammel on Saturday, but both pitchers grinded out some innings. Over the last two days, the Orioles pen has thrown seven relief innings without allowing an earned run. And that includes back-to-back outings for both Darren O' Day and Jim Johnson.
And the late-inning offensive prodution is promising well, and seeing Nolan Reimold, who is 5-for-10 with 2 doubles and 2 homers so far this series -- find his comfort zone in the leadoff spot might be one of the best sights possible for Orioles fans.
"Every question seems to be prefaced with how we’ve struggled here," Reimold said. "So it’s good to come in here and have some close ballgames that we can do the little things you have to do to get the win."
Obviously, the three-city, 10-game road trip is just beginning with trips to Chicago and Anaheim yet to come, but the Orioles are realistically looking at a .500 record on this trip, which would be huge for the Birds.