Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Buck Keeps Rolling

Matt Wieters gives Brad Bergesen a pound after Bergesen's complete game win over the Indians where he allowed only 2 hits.

The Orioles' 8-1 record since Buck Showalter took over as manager is the best record in the majors in that time.

Was it a work of magic?

It's as good as anyone's guess. Maybe it's the dry erase board that Showalter hung up in his office. It lists the organization's depth chart, meaning someone like Brad Bergesen, Felix Pie or Josh Bell can see who is down in the minors trying to take their job. It's apparently made the O's players realize that they won't be in Baltimore just on looks alone, so they are now playing to prove they belong.

And it's working.

I can actually say is that it's more exciting to be an Orioles fan now than it has been at any time this season -- and maybe even the past few years.

For once, things are finally looking up for the Orioles, and not just in the major leagues. Several of the O's top prospects struggled to start the year, but as of late, many of those players (Brandon Snyder, Nolan Reimold, Matt Angle, Zach Britton, etc...) have turned their seasons around, much like their Oriole counterparts, and salvaged some of the hope that was lost earlier in the season.

A prime example of this was last night's performance by Brad Bergesen in the Orioles 3-1 win over the Indians.

Dogged by injuries, lack of confidence and fussy mechanics, Bergesen found himself wearing out a path to Norfolk this year, having been demoted twice this season. But in his last 3 starts, Bergesen has been stellar: 23 IP, 4 ER, 12 H, 14 K, 4 BB. In that time he's lowered his ERA from 6.95 to 5.84.

And last night, he was almost perfect. He pitched a complete game, allowing only 2 hits and 1 run. Even more impressive, Bergesen only threw 102 pitches and got better as he went along. He'd struck out only 1 batter through the first 7 innings before fanning another 3 hitters in the final 2 innings of the game.

When is the last time an Orioles starting pitcher has gotten better in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings?

If Bergesen can finish the season the way he's pitching now, it would go a long way in solidifying the Orioles rotation, which has been pitching much better as of late, but is still shrouded in question marks.

Josh Bell also had a good night last night. Bell, acquired in the George Sherrill trade last year, struggled with his defense and hitting left handed pitching during his time in the minors, but excelled everywhere else. And since he's come up to Baltimore, he's done little to show he's improved in his trouble areas. But last night, before the game, Bell was seen working with hitting coach Terry Crowley, and then went 3-4 in the game including a good diving stop and throw to first to nail a runner. Third base is definitely Bell's spot for the rest of the season so it's good to see him working hard to make sure it stays his next year, too.

It all goes back to the dry erase board theory. These players now know that they won't be able to skate by any more.

And finally, is it good to have Brian Roberts back, or what? It's safe to say that the Orioles horrid first 105 games of the season were largely in part because Roberts was injured and the Orioles couldn't find anything close to a a competent lead-off hitter. And since Roberts has come back, he's been the genuine lead-off hitter he's always been. And this was perfectly exemplified last night in a 12-pitch at bat where Roberts fouled off several pitches before taking Indians starting pitcher Josh Tomlin deep for a home run.

So there it is. Take it or leave it. You can either get excited about the Orioles under Buck Showalter or you can continue to wallow in the misery of the first 105 games of the season.

Me? I'm trying to stay optimistic, but I have to admit: forgetting those 105 first games is hard to do. But the Orioles go for another 3-game sweep tonight, after taking 3 of 4 from the White Sox and sweeping the Angels.

It almost makes you forget the Ravens first preseason game is on tonight.

In the past, you know what I -- and many other Baltimore fans -- would be watching tonight.

Not any more. Go O's!

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