So the O's just swept the Blue Jays in a 3 game series at home for the first time since 1994. That almost makes you forget that the O's did exactly what we all knew they would, and sent down Jon Knott when Jay Payton came off the DL.
Not that losing Knott hurt the O's this weekend, but it could hurt them in the future.
Teams battling for first place, even in April, can't have benches consisting of Chris Gomez, Freddie Bynum, and one of Paul Bako or Alberto Castillo. Yes, getting Jay Payton back will mean that either he, Jay Gibbons or Kevin Millar will also be on the bench on any given night, but imagine what this bench could do:
Bako/Castillo (when Ramon comes back one of them will be gone)
That looks pretty good to me. And with the pitching match-ups the O's will have over the next week, the O's are going to need every extra run they can muster.
OK, enough about Knott. There is plenty else to be excited about.
1. The pitching. While the starting pitching has been good, the bullpen has been excellent. The starters are keeping us in games that our offense can squeak out late in the game (like Friday night) when our bullpen takes over. The starters do need to go deeper into games, but with our bullpen, and the amount of pitchers we have in it, taking the starters out a batter or two earlier than normal might not be such a bad thing.
2. The offense. They seem to be a bit more patient, although they are not the Boston Red Sox quite yet. They've made pitchers work and are being more selective in the past. Let's just hope that keeps up when we face Haren, Schilling and Beckett later this week. Nick Markakis is turning into a clutch player right before our eyes. He was huge the entire weekend.
3. Chemistry. The team is never letting themselves get down, allowing them to always be in the game. Win or lose, they've been in almost every game they've played and with this bullpen, that is going to translate into wins.
After 2005, I'm still going to be worried about the bottom falling out, but at least this team has a good foundation of pitching going for it, which is something the 2005 team never had. Our starters are coming into their own and our bullpen is on shutdown mode.
Let's see if it holds up.