Tuesday, April 10, 2007

3-4 Defense

As usual, the Orioles played well and won their first game in Baltimore for the 7th time in a row. The temperature was cold but the bats were hot, and Daniel Cabrera was scorching.

7.2 IP, 2 ER, 7 H, 0 BB, 5 K.

Cabrera threw 120 pitches, 70 of them for strikes. That also means that 50 of them were balls, which may be more than you'd like to see from Cabrera, but he made every pitch count. It's even more encouraging to see him throw that many balls, and still not walk a batter. And while Cabrera has gotten off to a good start after usually taking a few starts to find his groove in the past, it's not time to anoint him as another ace. Cabrera needs to string together 3 more starts with good control, like his last 2, to get me to believe that he is a new and improved, more accurate Daniel Cabrera.

I'm not saying that he has to come out and put up zeros every time he pitches, but he has to maintain his control. Because if Cabrera does that, he'll be an excellent pitcher.

Back to the offense: the Orioles had 10 hits and have scored at least 6 runs in their last 4 games. No small feat for an offense that is going to be very streaky this season. They're definitely on a hot streak right now. But that has more to do with the O's having faced Kei Igawa, Darrell Rasner and Chad Durbin in their last 3 starts than anything else. So let's hope this hot streak lasts because there are really only 8 "hitters" in the O's line-up and the opposing pitching isn't going to be this bad all season.

But regardless of who has pitched against them, the Orioles have won 3 of their last 4 games, all coming against the Yankees and Tigers, 2 post-season teams from a year ago. And let's face it, a win in Yankee stadium would still be wonderful, even if the Mayor of Cincinnati was pitching against them.

One could still go back to last Saturday's devastating loss to the Yankees and spoil the current "good" feelings surrounding the O's, but to their credit, the O's bounced back from that loss and have shown that they can move on from such setbacks.

However, the O's managed to end losing streaks before they began last season, mostly because of Erik Bedard, and then promptly started them up again afterwards. So until the O's actually put an impressive wining streak together, I'm just going to enjoy the wins as they come and not think too hard about the future.

Today they sit at 3-4 as they start to face the meat of Detroit's starting rotation. Tonight they face LHP Nate Robertson, and we all know how the O's do against LHP. Even worse, the O's send out Jared Wright to the mound. Yikes.

And tomorrow they face Detroit's best pitcher last year, 17 game winner Justin Verlander.

So one can't help but get a little excited about the Orioles as the bright spots on the team shine a little brighter, but it all comes back to this. In 2005 the Orioles were first place for more than 60 days. Many people, myself included, had bought into them. They were finally going to be in the thick of it this season. I was even wondering if my European vacation in October was going to conflict with a possible Orioles post-season appearance. Silly me. The bottom fell out in June and the Orioles ended up losing close to 90 games amidst so many off the field problems that the O's looked like an NBA team.

So when can one allow themselves to get excited about this team? Today? This weekend? May? June? July? For me, it's always better to be winning early in the season as opposed to losing, but when you're the O's, you're always going to be waiting for the other shoe to drop. Hell, the O's could be 5 games up on the Yankees on the last day of the season and somehow I'd think that we could still finish behind them.

And while the Orioles have looked good in their last 35.2 innings, there is still a lot of baseball to be played, and a lot of things can still go wrong.

So root hard, but always beware that disappointment is waiting around the corner.

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