Orioles proving their success to be a trend -- not magic

Regardless of what goes wrong, team doesn't feel like it's ever out of a game these days

April 06, 2013|Peter Schmuck

Don't tell anybody in the Orioles clubhouse that there is some kind of magic in the air, because they work too hard to make it seem real.

That's going to have to be our little secret.

How else do you explain a team that shakes off adversity the way Chris Davis shrugs off an 86-mph fastball down and away — all the way into the left-field bleachers.

The Orioles awoke on Friday morning wondering just how long second baseman Brian Roberts would be lost after suffering a painful leg injury in the ninth inning of Thursday's victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. They awoke at the plate in their home opener after starter Jake Arrieta hiccupped in a four-run fourth inning and they came from behind twice to defeat the Minnesota Twins and thrill — but not surprise — the sellout crowd at Camden Yards.

After all, they did that kind of thing all last year, and they did it a couple of times in the season-opening series against the Rays. If that feels to you like Oriole Magic, you're not alone, but manager Buck Showalter and his players don't deal in the supernatural.

“I think they've got too much respect for the opposition and how hard it is to do to just say you can will it to happen,” Showalter said. “I think they realize how hard it was to do what we did last year, and they know there's only one way to do it, and that's to grind through it.”

No one will deny that there is something otherworldly about the way Davis has been swinging the bat. He's on the mother of all hot streaks right now. But he wouldn't have a record 16 RBIs through the first four games of the season if his teammates weren't also along for the wild ride.

Relievers Troy Patton and Luis Ayala had to restore some order after Arrieta ran into a rough patch in the middle innings. The guys in front of Davis in the batting order had to squeeze Twins reliever Casey Fien. Adam Jones, who also has been sizzling with the bat, took a little pressure off by driving in the tying run with a bases-loaded single to bring the second coming of Paul Bunyan to the plate.

The Orioles have just got it all going right now, but the feeling that everything is going to turn out right is based on the fact that they have been there and done that before. The confidence is real, and it was hard-earned during the formative 2011 season and the uplifting 2012 playoff run.

“When Luis put a couple zeros up there, and Troy, it looked like if we can score some runs we're not going to go back out there and give it up,” Showalter said. “That's a good mentality. There's an ebb and flow to each game. If you've got that feeling, [and] the guy you've got pitching can't get anybody out, well that feeling doesn't matter. It's a whole team thing. Everybody's got to pull their weight. We've challenged them so many times about, ‘Do what you do, bring what you bring and make sure your teammates can count on it and it'll all come together if you stay true to that.'”

Baseball operations chief Dan Duquette also thinks that the excitement the Orioles are generating right now is part of a very logical progression.

“The guys are off to a good start, but they worked hard in the offseason to be ready for moments like this,” Duquette said. “They do their work, and their approach is good. Our hitters are more selective and they're using the whole field. They have a good approach.”

Maybe there's nothing mystical about that, but this isn't the first time that Davis has made us wonder if the baseball gods have taken a special liking to the Orioles. You do remember that day in Boston when he alerted us that something wonderful might be going on by morphing from designated hitter to winning pitcher in a crazy 17-inning victory over the Red Sox?


Not necessarily, but outfielder Nate McLouth believes that the secret to the Orioles' continuing success is that they totally believe in themselves.

“It's a good feeling in the dugout because we don't feel like we're ever going to lose a game,” he said. “We got down 4-1 there in the fourth and came right back that next inning, scored one and had a chance to score more, and then just chipped away and waited for CD to get the big hit again. It's just a feeling like at some point we're going to make a run. It almost feels like basketball. At some point in the NBA, teams make a run. It kind of feels like that here.”

Arrieta wasn't happy to give up those four runs in the fourth — or the one that allowed the Twins to retake the lead in the sixth. But he said he wasn't worried because he's seen his teammates overcome bigger obstacles than that.

“That's something that came from our experience last year winning games like that, from being down and having to battle back in the later innings,” Arrieta said. “Just with the experience that we had and guys maturing a little bit, it makes those kind of games a little bit easier to stay engaged because we feel like if we stay on the grind and the guys keep having quality at-bats, anything can happen. For me, I got picked up today and I just need to return the favor next time.”



Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, “The Schmuck Stops Here,” at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog, and listen when he co-hosts “The Week in Review” at noon Fridays on WBAL (1090 AM) and at wbal.com.

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