In one of the more difficult weeks they’ll ever have to endure, the Baltimore Orioles thrived.
If you look back nine days, the Orioles won five of six games, and many of the problems that seemed to envelop the team have vanished.
On Apr. 25, the Orioles were 7-10. They hadn’t been four games under .500 since the end of the 2011 season.
Since then, their lives were uprooted by the riots.
Nine days ago, thousands of fans were prevented from entering the ballpark because of nearby unrest.
Wei-Yin Chen started a streak of six straight quality starts and the team recorded an improbable 5-4 10-inning win. They trailed 4-3 in the 10th, but Adam Jones’ triple, Chris Davis’ sacrifice fly and David Lough’s home run gave them the win.
Sunday was a quiet and beautiful day. A large crowd watched Bud Norris pitch his best game of the season and the Orioles score 18 runs, their most in more than nine years.
Monday was an awful and frightening day. With baseball commissioner Rob Manfred on hand, the game was postponed about 45 minutes before its scheduled start.
Only several hundred fans were in the park. Two entrances were open while the rest were secured, and the teams quickly left.
Tuesday’s game was postponed that morning, and later that day the announcement that Wednesday’s game would be played without a crowd and the weekend series move to Tampa Bay.
With the city much quieter, the ballpark had an eerie feel as the Orioles rushed through their fastest game in nearly five years, an 8-2 win over the Chicago White Sox.
Chris Davis threw balls into the empty stands and Caleb Joseph pantomimed signing an autograph for a nonexistent fan.
“Saturday Night Live” even jumped in with a skit based on the empty ballpark.
Zach Britton, one of the most thoughtful of all the Orioles, wondered why the Rays couldn’t have switched a series in July for the one the Orioles played there.
There were other considerations, too. The Orioles could have played in Washington or Philadelphia, but those weren’t seriously considered, and Ed Smith Stadium, their spring training site which barely holds 8,000 was considered, too.
Fans from Baltimore might have had a hard time traveling to Nationals Park because of the curfew, which was rescinded on Sunday. Washington would have been too close psychologically, too.
It was best the series was relocated. Fears that tiny crowds would be the story were quickly shot down. Nearly forty thousand, each crowd larger than the last, paid to sit in Tropicana Field’s lower deck.
Crowds on Saturday and Sunday were larger than for many Rays home games even though the series was hastily arranged.
It turns out that Ed Smith Stadium would have been too small for the crowds, and the Rays were reluctant to move their July 24-26 series to Baltimore. They had scheduled popular country singer Kacey Musgraves for that weekend and had a large advance sale.
I guess it would be like switching “Floppy Hat Night” or “Buck Showalter Garden Gnome Night.”
The best part of the weekend was that the Orioles won two of three, and pitched brilliantly even in Friday’s loss. Chris Tillman allowed two runs on three hits in seven innings.
Miguel Gonzalez was brilliant working into the eighth inning, and Chen’s two runs in six innings kept the team afloat until they could rally for three runs in the seventh.
Concerns about the bullpen have abated because the starters are able to work deeper in the games.
J.J. Hardy could play this weekend for the first time this season. He’s been given the go-ahead to play at least three rehab games at Bowie this week. Ryan Flaherty will join him.
If the Orioles choose to activate both this weekend, Rey Navarro will simply be optioned back to Norfolk, and then a tough decision could be forthcoming.
Everth Cabrera has an option remaining, and is hitting just .221. He has just two extra-base hits, both doubles. He’s struck out 18 times and walked just twice.
If Steve Pearce plays acceptably at second base, Cabrera could be sent down.
Lough is another possibility, but he has no options remaining and could be claimed on waivers.
He missed the first four games with a hamstring injury, and in the three weeks since his activation has started just three games.
Lough is helpful as a backup outfielder, has some speed, but with the current alignment has little hope of playing more. Cabrera played in the outfield during spring training, and Flaherty has played there in the past.
This week’s highlights are the Orioles first road trip against both the Mets and Yankees. Surprisingly, the Yankees lead the AL East by three games over the Orioles.