There is a cautionary adage about the perils of over-analyzing unexpected good fortune. It is considered bad form to examine the dental work of a gift horse because — I guess — you didn't deserve the poor animal in the first place.
So, Orioles fans might do best to just enjoy each small moment of glory that bubbles out of the 2012 season without looking at it too hard, because closer examination undoubtedly will reveal a lot of the same warts that made much of last season unwatchable.
Monday night's dynamic comeback victory over the Chicago White Sox is a good example. The Orioles hit two home runs in the ninth inning to tie the game and scored six runs in a feel-good 10th that featured Matt Wieters' first career grand slam.
Nothing wrong with that. The Orioles have gone on a home run binge during the first half of their current 10-game road trip, winning two of three games in Toronto and opening a four-game series in Chicago in — literally — grand style. They entered Tuesday night's game in first place in the American League East with a 6-4 record, which is a pretty positive development when six of those first 10 games were against two tough division opponents.
It's only fair to point out, however, that the Orioles also stood at 6-4 after 10 games last year. They also were 3-3 at home and 3-1 on the road. They also were still atop the division standings while the Yankees sat in the middle and the Boston Red Sox struggled at the bottom.
In other words, it is déjà vu all over again, only different.
This Orioles team is still doing things that make manager Buck Showalter put on his "Really?" face in the dugout almost every night. First baseman Chris Davis dropped a routine throw from Jake Arrieta on a sacrifice bunt play earlier in Monday's game, then failed to catch a double-play relay from second baseman Robert Andino (who, admittedly, should have made a better throw).
Andino, who has been one of the real bright spots over the past year, failed to get another bunt down, which is kind of a requirement when you're supposed to be a pesky No. 9 hitter. Right-fielder Nick Markakis, who had such an uplifting opening weekend, couldn't get the ball over the infield with the bases loaded and no one out when the Orioles still needed some extra-inning insurance. He woke up Tuesday in a 3-for-31 slump.
The offense arrived at the 10th inning Monday batting an anemic .171 with runners in scoring position before reeling off five RISP hits to break the game wide open.
This is all ultimately palatable because of the outcome, but Showalter knows that his team will have to tighten things up considerably to remain competitive with the schedule the Orioles face in baseball's toughest division.
He already is faced with a volatile infield situation that has raised questions at both corners. Mark Reynolds is struggling to catch the ball again at third and newcomer Wilson Betemit made errors in consecutive games when he was moved there to shore up the position. Davis has been solid enough at first during his career to dismiss Monday's performance as a fluke, but Showalter may have to consider swapping him with Reynolds like he did late last year.
The happy news, of course, is that Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Nolan Reimold have exploded at the plate, the starting rotation has — so far — made good on Showalter's desire to take the team deeper into games on a regular basis, and the bullpen has been stalwart in the late innings. If all that continues to happen, the Orioles will continue to play exciting and competitive baseball, but that's no small thing to assume.
If you're looking for a reason to believe that this year has a chance to be different, consider that the Oriole outcomes to this point have actually been less then the sum of the parts. They should have won at least one of the three games against the Yankees and they did not really deserve to be blown out in Sunday's series finale against the Blue Jays.
The front of the rotation is legit. The Orioles are 6-1 in the games started by Arrieta, Tommy Hunter and Jason Hammel. The back end of the bullpen looks very promising, with Jim Johnson settling into the closer role and Pedro Strop starting to step up as a potentially electric setup guy. The big boppers aren't going to hit as many home runs as they have the last few days, but there is real potential at the heart of the batting order.
There are also some holes in this team you could drive the equipment truck through, but why dwell on that at a nice time like this?
Read Peter Schmuck's blog, The Schmuck Stops Here, at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog and listen when he hosts "The Week in Review" at noon Fridays on WBAL (1090 AM) and at wbal.com.
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