Of course, it's deja vu all over again. The Orioles were 6-4 and in first place. They were 3-3 at home and 3-1 on the road, just like now.
So, why should anyone think that anything has changed?
That's a fair question since there's no way to know yet, but the one thing that's different is that the Orioles started out like gangbusters last year and then quickly collapsed. By the time they got through their 10th game, they were almost halfway into the eight-game losing streak that sucked the air out of Camden Yards.
The difference this year is the way they recovered after getting swept in frustrating fashion by the Yankees. They won their first series in Toronto in a long time and scored six runs in the 10th inning last night. Pretty uplifting stuff. The timing was good, too, since there's a tough series in Anaheim looming this weekend. If they had let the Yankees get into their heads, it could have been a really ugly month.
Now, for the bad news. There are some things going on here that are not any different than last year -- particularly the defensive struggles of Mark Reynolds and the inability of some members of the lineup to adjust their approach to the situation at hand.
There have been several clutch situations over the past week in which Orioles hitters have been overanxious at the plate and gotten themselves out when they should be making the opposing pitcher sweat. The O's also have failed to get down a bunt at a couple of key moments.
Monday night, they staged an exciting comeback in the late innings and scored two quick runs to take the lead in the 10th. Nobody would ever complain about that, but it's still tough to watch them load the bases with no outs and then get nothing from Nick Markakis and Adam Jones at a point when even a productive out would take a ton of pressure off closer Jim Johnson.
Fortunately, Matt Wieters made it all better with his first career grand slam, but I actually would have been more impressed if the Orioles had scratched out a couple of tack-on runs in that situation. The Yankees series illustrated that they're going to have to do that to be competitive on a consistent basis.