Thursday's game was about more than an 8-2 loss for O's fans

There's nothing particularly inspiring about the box score of the Orioles' 8-2 loss to Kansas City on Thursday night.

Oriole starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen  was shelled early, Royals designated hitter Billy Butler had yet another dominant performance against the O's, and the home team was drubbed.


Box scores are deceiving.

Although the final score may not show it, Thursday was a milestone night for an organization desperate to end a 15-year playoff drought.

But it wasn't necessarily because of Manny Machado. Sure, the 20-year-old went 2-for-4 with a run in his major-league debut. And sure, he said all the right things before and after the game.

It was because of the fans. Before Thursday night, many Orioles enthusiasts were cautiously optimistic about their team's chances of finally making the postseason.

They were pleasantly surprised with the O's record (now 60-52), but they couldn't help but notice the warning signs of an almost certain downfall: The third-worst run differential in the American League. The inconsistent starting pitching. The defensive lapses.

But on Thursday, the pessimism was replaced with "what ifs." What if this team can go on a run and win the division? What if Machado's really that missing link the O's have needed? What if the front office is able to make another key roster adjustment?

The trademark skepticism was absent. The dooms-day scenarios were hard to find. This is an organization committed to winning -- not three years from now, but this season.

It's why 21,226 people gave Machado a standing ovation during his first at-bat. It's why some orange-clad fans walked to the exits with smiles on their faces. And it's why Thursday was about far more than a free Chen T-shirt.


Just ask Mike Croteau, a 24-year-old Baltimore native who attended the game just three days before he starts a job in Colorado.

"You know, Dan Duquette has kind of proven himself this year," Croteau said about a half hour before the opening pitch. "He's not an idiot. He's shown that he knows what he's doing and Buck obviously has shown he knows what he's doing. So if they believe, I think we should all give him a chance."

And that's what Thursday was really about. Not the fact a sub-.500 squad routed the O's. Not that Butler nearly hit for the cycle. It was about giving a chance to a team with a track record for disappointment.