Maybe it was the Ripken bobblehead giveaway, but an announced crowd of more than 34,000 showed up at Camden Yards to watch the Orioles stumble for the second straight game against Colorado, 6-1, and for that, I give the Baltimore fans some credit. The night before, an even more frustrating, 3-2, defeat in 10 innings, there were more 27,000 and on Friday, the announced crowd topped 22,000.
The strong showing in the stands might have been due to the relatively good weather over the weekend after having the team absent on a long road trip. And perhaps the crowds will thin out considerably once the Washington Nationals pull into town for a midweek series in what the marketers would like to bill as an I-95 rivalry. But considering the Orioles have done little on the field this year to get their fans excited, the weekend was actually a testament to an enthusiasm around here that, frankly, I thought had been doused.
Not that Orioles aren't trying their best to drive people away from the ballpark. If it's not unreliable relief pitching, it's an anemic offense bedeviling the Orioles. Saturday's game was one that a team just can't lose at home. After Brian Roberts helped manufacture a 2-0, first-inning lead on the front end of a double steal, the Orioles bats went silent (they've scored just one run in the last 18 innings). With the score tied, 2-2, Saturday night, the only Oriole to reach base over the last three innings was Nick Markakais when he was hit by a pitch. Oh yeah, the starting pitcher in that one was Jeremy Guthrie, whose ERA keeps improving but won-loss record doesn't. Yesterday, there wasn't even the drama that Guthrie's strong performance had produced as Erik Bedard was roughed up a bit and the O's just couldn't respond.
* After seeming to revive interest in the NBA playoffs, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have barely showed up for the Finals. Except for a spurt in the fourth quarter last night that provided some long-shot hope that they might actually be able to compete with San Antonio, the Cavs have been nothing more than an overmatched sparring partner for the Spurs. San Antonio is up 2-0, with the series headed to Cleveland tomorrow. I was surprised to see that the Game 1 TV ratings were so low after James had performed so brilliantly in leading the Cavs' upset of Detroit in the Eastern Conference finals, but I guess the viewing public had a pretty clear idea about how this thing might go. I can't imagine that last night's rating were much better considering the TV competition was the finale of The Sopranos.
* And both Rafael Nadal and Justine Henin proved dominant at the French Open over the weekend. Each completed a three-peat on the clay of Roland Garros. Nadal, a Spaniard, lost just one set during the entire tournament, to Swiss Roger Federer in the finals, as he continues to dominate on clay. And Belgian Henin, who won her title on Saturday against Ana Ivanovic, did even better -- she didn't lose a single set and dispatched Serb Ivanovic, 6-1, 6-2. Henin may not do as many fashion photo shoots as Maria Sharapova or even Ivanovic, but she keeps collecting those trophies. For Henin, there was personal meaning in this French Open as well. It was the occasion of an emotional reunion among her, and her father, two brothers and a sister from whom she had been estranged for seven years.