5 key questions facing the Orioles (revisited)

Last season, the Orioles played their best baseball in the second half as they surged to their first postseason berth in 15 years. As the team heads into this season's unofficial second-half -- the official midway mark is long past since the Orioles have already played 96 games so far -- they have built a better foundation for success. They also have a better record. The Orioles will open the second half Friday in Texas 10 games over .500 with a 53-43 record. At last year's break, they were just 45-40, and after 96 games, they weren't much better (51-45, seven games out of first place). "I've always said it and I believe it, it's not how you start, it's how you finish, especially with baseball in 162 games," Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis said. "The second half is what matters. … Every game matters, but especially in the second half. Every game from here on out is big. We don't want to give away games because it can come back and bite you in the long run." We all know what happened last season. The defense dramatically improved, Markakis provided a spark coming off the DL, August additions like Nate McLouth and Manny Machado solidified the lineup, the bullpen was stellar and manager Buck Showalter made the right moves from the dugout. This year, Chris Davis and Machado have become superstars. The Orioles lead the majors in home runs but are near the bottom (28th out of 30) in team ERA. But on some nights, superb pitching performances were wasted because the O's bats couldn't manufacture a run. "You can say we need more consistency at the plate or we need more consistency pitching, but I think we need to be more consistent as a team," Markakis said. "We've been pretty good at it and there have been times when games have gotten away from us. … We're all in it for the same reason." Before Opening Day, we looked at the top five questions facing the Orioles entering the 2013 season. So as we begin the second half, we revisit those five questions with a lot of baseball behind us, with a fine-toothed comb and with a little honesty, realizing some of them might sound slightly silly now, like "What can we expect from Manny Machado?" -- Eduardo A. Encina, The Baltimore Sun
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