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Orioles making surprising magic deep into season

Baltimore Oriole Bird
Baltimore Oriole Bird

They trotted out the hoary chestnut “Orioles Magic” Friday night at Camden Yards in the wake of that night’s comeback by the Birds against the Los Angeles Angels. The situation certainly merited it. The Orioles, down 4-2, in the bottom of the ninth, pushed across three runs with two outs to complete the charge.

The result was made even more improbable by the fact that the final three hitters – Adley Rutschman, Cedric Mullins and Trey Mancini – were all down to their final strike, as they clubbed a double, a double and a game-winning single to conclude the game.

The fourth-largest crowd of the season, most adorned in floppy hats, went berserk, the customary reaction for a fanbase enthralled with its team.

And the Orioles have, for the first time in six years, given their fans something to cheer for with an eight-game winning streak, many of which carried out, like Friday, in dramatic fashion.

Friday’s win – a walk-off in baseball nomenclature – was the eighth of its kind this season, evidence that these plucky Birds shouldn’t be counted out.

That didn’t seem to be the case roughly two weeks into the season. That’s when John Means, the ace of the Baltimore pitching rotation, was yanked from his second start of 2022 with left forearm tightness.

That tightness was the precursor to ligament damage, which led to what is known as Tommy John surgery, named for a former pitcher for the Dodgers and Yankees who underwent the operation nearly 40 years ago,

Means was done for the rest of the year and so were the Orioles’ hopes of relevancy, or so it was thought by many, including a certain WYPR essayist, who shall remain nameless.

It’s not as if the Orioles haven’t given fans and observers reason to doubt their resilience. While there’s no need to rehash the painful past, it shouldn’t be glossed over either.

The team’s front office permitted the Birds to plumb the depths of baseball with a vague promise that if the faithful would remain faithful, good things would happen eventually.

Well, with the team’s best players traded off, its best pitcher injured and the managing family in a state of feud, it was hard to believe that magic was coming.

Lo and behold, things have gotten interesting around Birdland, just in time for the franchise to mark its 30th year in Camden Yards.

Pitching, even without Means, has gotten better. The starters and relievers have shown a knack to keep the team competitive until the hitters can come through late in ballgames, as evidenced by that eight-game walk-off streak we mentioned.

The Orioles are back to playing the kind of stellar defense that has been a hallmark of the franchise since their halcyon days of the 60s and 70s.

And despite that there’s not a single player batting over .300 on the roster, those hitters have produced in a timely fashion all year, helping produce the longest win streak since 2017.

Yes, the Birds are in their now typical last place perch in the American League East, But they’re also within striking distance of getting back to the playoffs. And if that happens, well that would be Orioles Magic.

And that’s how I see it for this week. You can reach us via email with your questions and comments at Sports at Large at gmail.com. And follow me on Twitter at Sports at Large.

Until next week, for all of us here, I’m Milton Kent. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games.

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.