CHICAGO -- They were all wearing black suits and grim expressions the night of June 22.
As they walked into the home clubhouse at Camden Yards, Orioles general manager Roland Hemond, assistant GM Frank Robinson and player development director Syd Thrift could have been confused for pallbearers.
Orioles starters Kevin Brown and Ben McDonald were placed on the disabled list that night, and wouldn't be back before the All-Star break. The club was in fourth place and nine games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox, and faced two weeks of games that could effectively end their season. A losing streak could drop them out of contention.
Instead, they have flourished, winning 11 of the 16 games since Brown and McDonald went on the disabled list. The Orioles haven't made up much ground on the Red Sox -- they are six games out of first. But they're still alive.
Much of the credit for that, coincidentally, goes to the beleaguered rotation. Mike Mussina and Jamie Moyer have started seven of the 16 games, and won all seven. John DeSilva was called up to start two games, beating Milwaukee in one. Rick Krivda was called up Friday and pitched effectively, giving the Orioles a chance to beat the White Sox, which they did.
"This one stretch is the thing I'm most proud of this year, the way the rotation has come through for us," said pitching coach Mike Flanagan.
Regan said, "I didn't know Jamie Moyer was going to pitch the way he's pitched. A lot of guys have picked us up."
Regan was referring to the rotation, but he could have been talking about the entire team. Throughout the modest run of victories, there has been no shortage of heroes or heroics.
* Arthur Rhodes pitched a strong game to beat the Red Sox on June 25.
* On June 27, Manny Alexander drove in four runs in the Orioles' rout of Milwaukee. Before that, Orioles second basemen had combined for five RBIs.
* Curtis Goodwin drove in three runs and hit his first major-league homer July 1.
* The next day, the Orioles came back from a 7-0 deficit to beat the Blue Jays.
* Cal Ripken made a diving catch to save a 2-1 win over the White Sox on July 6.
In addition, help is on the way. Brown, McDonald and third baseman Jeff Manto are expected to come off the disabled list later this week. If the Orioles come back and challenge in the AL East, their performance in the 17 games leading up to the All-Star break will be seen as a turning point.
The Orioles have gone 11-5 since pitchers Ben McDonald and Kevin Brown went on the disabled list June 22. Some of the reasons:
* Starting pitching. Mike Mussina has won his past four starts, and Jamie Moyer has won three straight (with a 1.23 ERA in
those games). The Orioles also have gotten a victory from John DeSilva, called up from the minors to pitch two games, and one great start from Arthur Rhodes, against Boston on June 25. Rick Krivda was called up to pitch Friday night and held his own, allowing two runs in 5 2/3 innings.
* The bullpen. Doug Jones has converted five straight save opportunities since June 22. Terry Clark has given up just one run in 14 appearances since being called up June 8.
* Defense. The Orioles have made just five errors in the past 17 games.
* Manny Alexander. He has 16 RBIs in his past 14 games.
* Pinch-hitting. The Orioles are 8-for-12 coming off the bench since June 22.