There hasn’t been much to celebrate in Baltimore this season, so when Adam Jones hit a game-winning single in the bottom of the 10th inning last Friday night, the Orioles mobbed Jones and jumped around like they had won the AL East.
It was Baltimore’s fourth straight win, matching its season high, and made new manager Buck Showalter 4-0 with the team.
Everything’s looking a lot more cheerful in the clubhouse of the team with baseball’s worst record (37-74 at the beginning of this week). A lot of the credit can be given to Showalter, who went from an analyst with ESPN to the dugout again.
“Everybody, including me, is thirsting for good things to happen,” Showalter said after winning his first game with the Orioles last week by a 6-3 final over the Los Angeles Angels at Camden Yards in Baltimore. “It’s one day, one game — but it was fun.”
Showalter returned as a major league manager for the first time since 2006. He had an 882-833 record as manager of the New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks and Texas Rangers, winning two manager of the year awards after turning those teams around.
“He’s been on winning ballclubs,” Jones said. “He knows what it takes. Everybody knows his reputation around here. They know it as someone who’s going to get on you, and it’s working for us.
“People are on their P’s and Q’s and playing the game. We’re just playing the game smarter.”
The Orioles, who were 7-14 in their first 21 games since the All-Star break, swept the Angels for the first time since 1999 on a game-winning single by Cezar Izturis in a 5-4 victory. Then they beat the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox 2-1 in their next game on Jones’ hit.
Baltimore went 5-1 in its first six games under Showalter. And the more the Orioles win, the more they celebrate.
“God knows they’ve had enough negative,” Showalter said of his players. “I just step back and watch them (celebrate), knowing how challenging and painful this season has been so far.”
Baltimore ranks 28th in runs scored with 403 (through Sunday) but plated 20 runs in the three games with the Angels.
“They’re totally different,” Angels outfielder Torii Hunter said. “They’ve been hitting some good pitching, swinging the bats well, hitting doubles, hitting homers. A lot of guys, they’re doing their thing and stepping up.”
The pitching also has improved. Baltimore’s starters had a 1.94 ERA in the first six games under Showalter. The Orioles ranked 29th in the majors on Monday with a 5.10 ERA.
“I think it’s what people anticipated and hoped for back in March,” said Jeremy Guthrie, who has won three of his last four starts. “It’s taken longer to see what kind of potential we have.”
Guthrie (6-11) outdueled the White Sox’s Mark Buehrle in Sunday’s 4-3 win, which featured a home run by Felix Pie.
“If we pitch like this, we can play with anybody,” Showalter said. “It’s not like these guys have never pitched well this year. And they seem to be feeding off each other.”
There’s nothing the Orioles can do to avoid a 13th consecutive losing season, but with Showalter at the helm, it appears that riding out the season will be a lot happier than in recent years.
StatsWatch: Who are the best and worst fielding teams in the major leagues? Here’s the list at the start of this week:
The best —
- San Francisco Giants, 40 errors, .990 fielding percentage.
- Minnesota Twins, 40 errors, .990
- Cincinnati Reds, 42 errors, .990
- San Diego Padres, 47 errors, .989
- New York Yankees, 47 errors, .988
The worst —
- Washington Nationals, 87 errors, .979
- Florida Marlins, 85 errors, .979
- Chicago Cubs, 84 errors, .979
- Pittsburgh Pirates, 81 errors, .980
- Kansas City Royals, 80 errors, .980
Diamond Notes: Toronto’s J.P. Arencibia went 4-for-5 with two home runs, a double and three RBIs in his major league debut on Saturday. He is the first player with four hits and two homers in his debut in the modern era (since 1900)…In that game, the Blue Jays slugged eight home runs in a 17-11 win over Tampa Bay. It was their most in a game since hitting a major league record 10 against Baltimore in 1987…The next game, of course, was a 1-0 score, but with the Jays coming out on top again on Sunday. In that one, Brandon Morrow lost his no-hit bid with two outs in the ninth inning on a base hit by the Rays’ Evan Longoria. Morrow struck out a career-high 17 batters.
Copyright © 2010 Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.