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Kevin Cowherd: Let's not spoil Orioles' fun by looking ahead to tough stretch

Baltimore OriolesBaseballOakland AthleticsWilson BetemitNew York YankeesNolan Reimold

Just another day at Camden Yards, right? Another ho-hum, garden-variety 5-2 win Sunday, this time over the Oakland Athletics? OK, maybe not.

Say what you will about this team and where it'll end up at season's end. But right now, you can't deny this: The Orioles sure have been fun to watch.

"It was fun there in the ninth inning," manager Buck Showalter said in his typically understated way.

Fun in the ninth? Yeah, kind of.

Let's play it back: With one out, Matt Wieters doubles off A's closer Grant Balfour, a shot to the base of the left-field wall to tie the game at 2. Two batters later, Wilson Betemit smacks a walk-off homer.

Then Betemit tosses his helmet high in the air on his home run trot and jumps into the obligatory scrum of teammates waiting for him at the plate, getting his celebratory beat-down with most of the crowd of an announced 31,793 still in the house and on its feet, roaring.

Just another win? Hardly.

That's as much fun as it gets for this team, which went 5-1 on this homestand to push its record to 14-8 and hold on to — I know it's early, but this is fun to write — first place in the American League East.

Of course, now we're about to find out just how good the Orioles are.

Looked at the schedule lately? I say that because the Orioles have an absolutely brutal stretch of games coming up.

It starts with three against the New York Yankees beginning Monday night in the Bronx. That's followed by three against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Pivotal road trip, Buck?

Or is it too early in the season to start using that word?

"I do think it's too early to feel that way," Showalter said before Sunday's tidy two-hour, 31-minute game. "But anytime you're playing teams in your division, you want to play well, especially in their park."

And the schedule doesn't get much better from there. Because after Boston, the Orioles return home for nine days to play the Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays and Yankees again.

But that's a worry for another day. And the Orioles weren't about to dwell on it Sunday, not after their most inspiring win of this young season.

Against the A's, they ripped a page out ofEarl Weaver's old handbook, winning with pitching, defense and Betemit's three-run homer.

Starter Tommy Hunter wasn't great, but he went seven innings, scattered seven hits and kept the Orioles in the game.

What was great was the Orioles' defense.

Mark Reynolds, making his first start at first base, looked like a Gold Glover when he stabbed a sharp grounder off the bat of Kila Ka'aihue in the fourth inning to start a 3-6-3 double-play from his knees. One batter later, right fielder Nick Markakis gunned down Seth Smith trying to stretch a single into a double.

In the fifth, Nolan Reimold reached over the left-field wall to take a homer away from A's catcher Kurt Suzuki. And to make the catch, Reimold had to fight off an adult fan with a glove the size of a frying pan.

(Dude, you're a grown man. Leave the glove at home next time. Let the kids catch the home run balls.)

And one batter after that, Adam Jones made a nice, diving catch in center field to rob Eric Sogard of a hit.

"I thought we played a real good defensive game, which is probably the difference in us being in that game," Showalter said.

It probably was, what with portly A's starter Bartolo Colon pitching a shutout into the ninth inning.

(How old is this guy now, 56? OK, he's really only 38. But it feels like he has been pitching since the dawn of the space age.)

Anyway, early in the season or not, that was a big win for the Orioles on Sunday.

Will it carry over on this next road trip, to the big series that starts Monday night at Yankee Stadium? Showalter shrugged.

"We had a good game today,"' he said. "Everybody feels good. We'll have a good train ride to New York. I take some pleasure in seeing them feel good about themselves. But they're mature enough to know we have a challenge ahead of us and how long the season is.

"But I've been real proud of them. Ever since the first day they got down to camp, there's been a real good karma about them."

Is that a quote for the ages or what?

When an old-school manager like Showalter starts talking about good karma, you know the team's having fun.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

twitter.com/kevincowherdsun

Listen to Kevin Cowherd at 7:20 a.m. Tuesdays on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."

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