It was about this time last year — give or take a week — that it became apparent the Orioles had undergone some kind of karmic transformation.
The exact date was May 6, 2012 and the team was at Fenway Park. Nobody has to tell a real fan the rest. Chris Davis came out of right field and shut out the Boston Red Sox for two innings. Adam Jones launched a three-run homer in the 17th to carry the Orioles back into first place in the American League East.
That was the point in their turnaround season when everybody realized something really special was taking place. Those more prone to hyperbole began talking in earnest about the return of “Oriole Magic” after so many years of wandering in the baseball wilderness. They turned out to be right and the team made the playoffs for the first time since 1997.
If you're wondering why this is suddenly relevant, you probably went to a movie or something Friday night and didn't watch the Orioles deliver a similarly magical performance against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. It didn't feature two non-pitchers on the mound at the end of a six-hour marathon, but it did include a relentless six-run comeback in the late innings, a huge performance by Davis and a game-winning hit in extras by super sophomore Manny Machado.
The Orioles ended up scoring three times in the 10th, and Jim Johnson set a club record with his 35th consecutive save and the final score was 9-6, which — you guessed it — was the same as last year's May 6 miracle.
The only major difference, of course, was that nobody around here needed Friday night's game to prove that the Orioles are a very good team. That has already been established, and it has been reinforced on several occasions during the first five weeks of the 2013 season.
The Twins didn't have to be reminded. The Orioles dropped a five-spot on them in the eighth inning April 5 at Camden Yards and scored five in the ninth five days later at Fenway to make sure Red Sox fans had not forgotten.
It's time to break this to the rest of the league and to all the experts who dismissed the Orioles' 2012 performance as some grand six-month illusion: It's not magic. This team is the real deal.
The Orioles entered Saturday night's game in Minnesota tied for the most wins (22) in the majors, and they have the best road record (13-8) in the American League (second-best overall), despite playing one of the game's toughest early-season schedules.
And it's not like everything is just falling into place. The fifth starter slot as been a chronic problem, setup man Pedro Strop is still trying to reclaim his 2012 form and the Orioles have gotten scant production from the designated hitter slot.
None of that has slowed them down. Though their fifth and fill-in starters this year are a combined 1-3 with a 6.44 ERA in eight tries, the club is a respectable 4-4 in those games. Though No. 1 starter Jason Hammel has been struggling with his command for much of this season and hiked his ERA up to 4.93 with a rocky four-inning performance Friday night, the Orioles are 6-1 in his seven starts.
That's a testament to the club's strong offensive performance and a never-say-die attitude that has been instilled by manager Buck Showalter. Hammel has gotten amazing run support to help him over the rough spots, while the Orioles hitters only stand down long enough to watch Wei-Yin Chen pitch every fifth day.
Chen has allowed three runs or fewer in six of his seven starts and is just 2-3, but if that's the most damaging statistical anomaly facing the Orioles, it's actually another sign of how well things have gone so far.
Going into the second game of the Twins series, the Orioles have won five of their past six games and need to split the final two at Target Field to win a series for the seventh time in their last eight tries.
When Showalter talks about “passing the baton,” he's usually referring to the hitters and pitchers simply doing their jobs and depending on their teammates to pick up where they left off, but this team also has passed the baton from 2012 to 2013.
If you're an Orioles fan, you already know that, but it must be fun to watch them keep reminding everybody else.
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.