Suddenly, after winning two straight against the division-leading New York Yankees — including Wednesday night's 6-3 victory — it's May again. There's no need for panic.
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“I think so,” said Orioles' first baseman Chris Davis when asked if beating the Yankees in the last two games should calm the masses for a bit. “I think the fact that it was against New York, who's at the top of our division and a team we feel we can compete with, I think it was huge. But we try not to get too low or get too high. We try to just stay even keel and go about [our work].”
The Orioles (25-21) closed out an eight-game homestand — which started with a season-worst six straight losses — by winning consecutive contests and, ultimately, the series. It's the first time the Orioles have won a series against the Yankees at Camden Yards since April 2009.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter, as he does whenever the subject is broached, said his team wasn't caught up in the losing streak, how to get out of it or what it means now that they have.
“There's a difference between being paranoid and being alert, OK?” Showalter said. “And our guys are alert to what's around every corner. Just because something good happens or something bad happens doesn't mean it's going to continue unless you stay on top of your business, and this group will. I've been accused of being paranoid. I like to consider myself alert.”
The Orioles offense was wide awake when Wednesday's game started, bashing the Yankees' ace 1A, Hiroki Kuroda, both literally and figuratively — hitting two homers, scoring five runs and chasing Kuroda in the third because of a bruised right calf. Aninning earlier, he took a Manny Machado liner off the leg.
Kuroda (6-3) brought a 1.99 ERA into Wednesday night and hadn't allowed three earned runs in any of his nine outings this season. He gave up three runs in the first, a solo homer to Nick Markakis (his seventh) and a two-run shot to Davis. It was Davis' 14th homer, taking the American League lead back from the Yankees' Robinson Cano.
Davis had four hits for the second time this season and is batting .375 since starting May 2-for-18.
After Kuroda left in the third with persistent leg soreness, Matt Wieters launched the second pitch from reliever Preston Claiborne for his seventh homer of the season. The three-run blast gave the Orioles a 6-1 lead, with all six runs coming via home runs. Ten of their 14 runs in the series scored on homers.
The homer trend wasn't the only one that emerged this series After right-hander Jason Hammel's two-run, 6 2/3 inning effort Wednesday, the Orioles have had four consecutive quality starts — at least six innings pitched, three runs or fewer allowed. That's the club's longest streak of the season for quality starts, and it comes after a stretch in which the Orioles' starter failed to go beyond five innings in six of seven games.
“We haven't really been pulling our weight,” Hammel (6-2) said of the rotation. “So once again tonight the guys put up some runs for us and we were able to pitch with a lead, which allows us to be aggressive. That's what they've been doing all year, so it's time for us pitchers to get deeper into games. … We're moving in the right direction.”
Hammel, the club's Opening Day starter who has not been crisp for most of the season, didn't dominate, but he stymied the Yankees offense. He allowed an RBI single to Cano in the third and Curtis Granderson's first homer of the year in the fifth, and that's all. He lowered his ERA to 5.37 with his first quality start since April 25 in Oakland.
“[Hammel] likes to win,” Showalter said. “I like guys who care a lot. Like all of us, we sometimes have to get out of our way a little bit, now and then. I don't think we've yet seen the best of him yet, and that's encouraging.”
As Hammel walked to the dugout after an outing that tied his longest of the season, many of the announced 26,725 rose to their feet for a standing ovation.
Lefty Brian Matusz entered in the seventh and recorded four straight outs. Darren O'Day allowed a solo homer to David Adams, but otherwise preserved the victory. In the club's six straight losses this homestand, the relievers posted a combined 7.94 ERA (20 runs in 22 2/3 innings). In their two wins, the bullpen allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings (1.69 ERA).
The Orioles now head to Toronto just three games behind the division leading Yankees. And they'll have something else to look forward to: The major league debut of last year's top pick, right-hander Kevin Gausman, who will start against the Blue Jays tonight.
Days ago, the sky seemed to be falling at Camden Yards.
And now it's just May again, with plenty of baseball remaining.
“When you play 162 games, you're going to have stretches where you don't feel good or you might even feel good but you're still losing ballgames,” Davis said. “I think the biggest thing to remember is to keep your emotions in check and continue to work like we have.”