An awful lot to like as O’s end awful skid

I turned on the game and saw players lining up and smiling and fist-bumping each other.

I saw the manager beaming and congratulating his coaches.

Naturally, I thought: Wrong game. I'm looking for the Orioles.

But these were the Orioles, believe it or not, breaking that horrible nine-game losing streak Sunday with an 8-3 win over the Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.

"Good for the team, great for the fans," Dave Trembley said to Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer on the MASN post- game show. "Now we can go for the pennant drive."

Yes, he was smiling when he said that, too.

No, he hasn't lost his mind, although managing the Orioles and watching them lose day after day in ever more creative ways would drive anyone crazy.

Which leads to this thought: With the Orioles up by five runs in the ninth inning and Jim Johnson on the mound, how many Orioles fans kicked back on the couch and thought, "Well, we've got this baby wrapped up"?

Are you kidding?

These are the Orioles. Nothing's ever wrapped up until it's wrapped up — and even then you wonder whether they'll find a way to blow it.

As Johnson took his warm-up throws to begin that inning, MASN broadcaster Rick Dempsey appeared on the post-game set with his fingers crossed.

He wasn't the only one. All of Orioles Nation was holding its breath — at least the fans who still care about this team and aren't already focused on whom the Ravens take in the NFL draft this week.

If you're looking for one of the few bright spots to this dreadful Orioles start, it has to be the pitching of Brian Matusz.

The kid was terrific again Sunday: eight hits in 6 1/3 innings, eight strikeouts and just one walk to run his record to 2-0.

"He has very good tempo, he doesn't get rattled, he was in control of the game," Trembley told Thorne and Palmer.

Yeah, that's the thing you have to love if you play behind Matusz: He works quickly.

The guy pitches like he has a plane to catch in five minutes.

And his stuff is just nasty. Twenty-three strikeouts in three outings this season — that's dazzling for a rookie.

Apparently the A's hitters had watched film of him in his last start for the Orioles and came away hugely impressed, too.

They were probably even more impressed in the fifth inning, when he struck out Eric Chavez on a breaking ball that absolutely froze the A's first baseman and probably still has him muttering to himself.

I don't care who you are, you're not going to hit that pitch. Babe Ruth's knees would have buckled on that one.

Another bright spot for the Orioles has been the play of Ty Wigginton, who homered and drove in four runs Sunday and continues to look like one of the only Orioles hitters with a clue.

Here's what you have to love about Wigginton: He knows his role on this team, and he's totally fine with it.

He's never going to wow you in the field. And he knows the only way he gets into the lineup is if he hits.

In fact, he sat down with Trembley this spring and said as much, that he was going to concentrate on hitting and make it tough for the manager to keep him out of the lineup.

So far, he has done just that. And you can bet driving in four runs against Brett Anderson, the A's hard-throwing left-hander, is going to get him a few more at-bats on this 10-game road trip — especially with the Orioles dropping like flies.

How many players are on the disabled list now, a dozen or so?

Maybe it just feels that way.

When Miguel Tejada pulled up lame after that bunt attempt against the A's on Saturday, I thought Trembley was going to climb to the upper deck of the Coliseum and air-mail himself.

Oh, yeah, if ever the Orioles needed someone like Matusz or Wigginton to step up, it's now.

So now it's on to Seattle for the Orioles. Three games against the Mariners and then they jump on a plane again and fly to Boston for three against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

The schedule, as everyone has pointed out, is a killer.

But at least they ended that terrible losing streak that had come to define them this April.

"This game today for everybody here feels like a playoff game," Tejada told reporters.

Hearing that, you're tempted to launch into Jim Mora's famously nutty rant popularized in that beer commercial: "Playoffs? PLAYOFFS? You kiddin' me? Playoffs?"

But that would be cruel.

And this is not a time for cruelty.


Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. with Jerry Coleman on Fox 1370 AM Sports.