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Tip your caps

The Baltimore Sun

There comes a point when you just have to roll with it.

The Orioles swept a two-game series against the Boston Red Sox in dramatic fashion and now have won four of their first five games against the defending World Series champions and New York Yankees. It might be way too early to ask "Why Not?" but it's not too early to join in the fun.

And, make no mistake, the Orioles are having quite a time.

All you had to do was watch the walk-off handshake session to see that. They had their bills turned up to emulate the goofy way closer George Sherrill wears his cap. They had the look of a team that no longer thinks it has to keep pulling rabbits out of those hats to beat the best teams in the American League, even though that's pretty much what they did in each game against the Red Sox.

This time, it was Jay Payton lining a grand slam into the left-field bleachers to turn around another late-inning deficit. Tuesday night, it was Luke Scott going deep and Jim Johnson pulling a seventh-inning escape act that would have made Houdini blush.

Both nights, the crowd rocked afterward to a new "Orioles Magic" music video on the brand new scoreboard, and who can really say for sure that there isn't something special happening here?

"I really do feel like there is a little bit of magic going," said Jeremy Guthrie, who got the victory in the series opener and got some face time on the new video. "We've had some good wins, so why not do it? If the fans like it, even better."

Some people will think it's cheesy, but the Orioles filmed a bunch of footage of the current team lip-syncing the words - with Kevin Millar, of course, on lead vocals - and edited in clips from the years when Orioles Magic was a way of life.

The season is 40 games old and the Orioles are 21-19, which isn't exactly an excuse to start printing playoff tickets, but who really thought they would compete like this for a couple of weeks, much less a quarter of the season?

Manager Dave Trembley is one of those one-game-at-a-time guys, so he isn't ready to make any grand proclamations, even if the Orioles have played their best against the best teams they've played.

"I think it's way too early for that kind of stuff," he said. "What it says is, our guys will be ready to play, we'll compete, we won't give in and we know we have to earn it. We understand that. We're fully aware of that. I think it starts with the attitude and the approach you take and different contributions from the club. I think that's what's happened the last couple of nights here, and I think in the games against the Yankees, you've seen that as well."

Trembley isn't going to break out any pompoms, but he's enjoying the ride, too. He just has to act like an adult while some of his players rediscover the Little Leaguer inside.

"You see these guys walking off the field with their hats up," he said. "You know what I'm dealing with here."

Who knows where it all goes from here, but this is all gravy anyway. This is the team that opened the season with the 64 1/2 -win over/under line in Vegas. This is the team that was supposed to be marking time until the rebuilding program really takes hold in a couple of years.

"You guys said that," Brian Roberts replied when somebody brought the subject up again yesterday.

Indeed, the preseason prognosticators didn't give the Orioles a chance to be even mildly competitive this year, but they were not alone. The front office also sought to temper expectations and buy time for the rebuilding effort. The team just hasn't cooperated.

"The best part about the club after 40 games," Trembley said, "the guys are having fun playing. They are not intimidated. They don't think they should have to take a back seat to anybody. They have every right to feel that."

To emphasize the team's us-against-the-world mentality, Sherrill pastes up offending newspaper clippings next to his locker for additional motivation. He has 15 saves to rank second in the major leagues, so it's apparently working.

The turned-up hats, however, are more fun.

"We only do it when we win, so it's pretty good," said Sherrill, who started wearing his cap like that in 2003 because he couldn't bend the bill to fit his head. "It's pretty funny. It has taken on a life of its own. Maybe the fans will take it up."

Why not?

Listen to Peter Schmuck on WBAL (1090 AM) at noon most Saturdays and Sundays.

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