CINCINNATI — The Orioles arrived home after their first road trip of the season – a taxing three-city, nine-game swing – atop the American League East with a majors-best 10-4 record as the division-rival Boston Red Sox come to Camden Yards for a three-game set.
After three interleague games in Cincinnati, the Orioles get back to the division competition that dominates their first five weeks of the season.
The Orioles finished 6-3 on the road trip, and the most impressive part of the trip might have been the end, as they cooled down a hot-hitting Cincinnati club by taking two of three at Great American Ball Park by winning a pair of pitchers' duels.
It's only one road trip, but remember that last year's team was three games under .500 on the road, so this opening trip can build momentum.
"It will be a sleepy flight," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It means we won more games than we lost and we're going home to some friendly faces. It's been one of the longer trips in a lot of ways. It just seems like early in the year to be gone this long.
"I think everybody's looking forward to getting home, but it's a quick turnaround. You're going to get in and get to bed at 4 o'clock in the morning, you're going to turn around and figure out a way to compete against one of the best teams in baseball. We played a hot team here and we got out of here two of three because we pitched real well except for the first day."
Five of the final seven games of the trip were decided by two runs or fewer, but the Orioles won four of those games.
The Orioles have also had quality starts in six of their last seven games.
But the fact that the Orioles took two of three here in Cincinnati after scoring a total of seven runs on the backs of right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez and lefty Wade Miley – the rotation's two biggest question marks coming into the season – is jaw-dropping.
Jimenez and Miley combined for 15 2/3 innings and allowed just one earned run, posting the Orioles' two longest starts of this young season.
"That's what we try to do," Miley said. "I think all of our starting pitchers. They try to get as deep into a ballgame as they possibly can. I was able to get some early outs tonight, which helped get me deeper in the ballgame. Sometimes it's tough when hitters put up good at-bats. We were able to maneuver and get pretty deep, and Ubie did a good job last night."
It was also positive to see Brad Brach filling in well for injured closer Zach Britton – he closed both wins in Cincinnati.
"Our pitching has been great, Ubaldo [on Wednesday] and Miley [Thursday], Brach coming in getting some saves, Darren [O'Day], our bullpen, strong like always," shortstop J.J. Hardy said. "Just good pitching. That's what it's been like the past couple of days."