Advertisement

Orioles take wild week in stride, showing what makes them successful

The week the Orioles just spent laboring through New York and Boston included challenges no one could have predicted. And taken collectively, it was enough to wear out even the toughest team.

But good luck searching for a galvanizing moment the team will use as fuel for the remaining five months of the season. If the Orioles continue on their path toward another contending season, it will be because of how they regard a week full of remarkable tests as unremarkable.

Advertisement

"I don't want to lessen, trust me, what happened in Boston, and the challenges there," manager Buck Showalter said. "I don't, because it was tough. But we got through it, we got out of there. We were more frustrated we didn't win three or four games, because they were there for us. Just like New York, we had a really good chance to win two of three there and we didn't. Our guys are thinking more about the baseball part of it as much as anything else."

Everyone outside the clubhouse is thinking about how it seems the Orioles packed a month's worth of baseball into a week. It began in earnest when they took a loss in a game they led, 9-1, on Friday. They scrapped out a win despite losing a late lead in a marathon game Sunday at Yankee Stadium, and then traveled to Boston for a series that brought a different challenge every day.

They won Monday, but center fielder Adam Jones had peanuts thrown at him and heard racial slurs shouted his way from the Fenway Park crowd.

Tuesday was a day of fallout from that, and in the game — which the Boston Red Sox won — left-hander Chris Sale tried to hit third baseman Manny Machado in the first inning.

Machado's fury at the situation led him to profanely call out the Red Sox after the game. And on Wednesday, Major League Baseball intervened and told the two teams that the hostilities had to stop. But that manifested itself in an unintentional way when home plate umpire Sam Holbrook reacted quickly, ejecting Kevin Gausman when he lost a breaking ball that hit Xander Bogaerts in the second inning Wednesday.

The Orioles lost, and the frustration boiled over because the superfluous had spilled into what they really want to do — win baseball games.

"They deal in reality," Showalter said. "They know what's real and what's not. But there's a lot of frustration sometimes during the season because the game and the circumstances aren't always fair, you know?

"That's where the frustration comes in, when things happen that aren't fair. I think that's where you really feel challenged to stay disciplined in a lot of different areas, where those around you aren't. That's in a lot of walks of life, not just baseball."

However, those are the challenges the Orioles are built for, first baseman Chris Davis said. The veteran slugger said everything in Boston was generally "handled poorly and blown way out of proportion," but the Orioles' way through it was to try to win that night's baseball game, and nothing else.

"I think that's one of the characteristics of this team that I'm probably the most proud of — our ability to kind of brush everything off and put it aside and focus on what we need to do," Davis said. "I think that's been the reason we've been so successful over the last few years."

They did that with spot starter Tyler Wilson on Thursday, and the bizarre week ended when Friday's starter, Wade Miley, left in the first inning after being hit with two line drives and Gabriel Ynoa needed to step in. The postgame disclosure that closer Zach Britton's forearm is still sore seemed a cruel addition to the whirlwind week.

Hard times have typically coincided with some of the Orioles' best seasons, if that run of success they referred to is any indication. In 2014 alone, they played most of the season without catcher Matt Wieters (elbow) and all of the postseason without Machado (knee) and Davis (suspension). Every year, the lack of national expectations for them during spring training become running themes inside the clubhouse. The Orioles tend to internalize slights and win games in response.

But never has so much happened, on and off the field, to galvanize them. Their two most recognizable stars being racially abused one day and targeted with a 98 mph fastball the next is a lot for any team to handle, but the Orioles did.

"I don't know if you can get any closer," Showalter said of his club. "Our guys, that type of environment is — I don't want to say nurturing, but if you're wearing our colors, they find something to like about you. But we don't have a corner on that."

Advertisement

And then two days after Gausman recorded just three outs before his ejection, Miley was hit with line drives twice in a three-pitch span and forced out of Friday's game after just 12 pitches.

It might be beyond most teams to absorb that, but the Orioles have been who they are four the past six years, and have it down to a science. On the management side, Showalter and executive vice president Dan Duquette strive for a flexible roster that can every night answer a hypothetical question: "Guy gets hit by a line drive first pitch, where are we going?"

The players, for their part, know what they need to do — pitch well, and if your minor league options are used against you, go down and wait your turn to come back. And for those staples who have populated the Orioles clubhouse for years, that deep understanding of everyone's responsibilities makes it easy to navigate a week that could sink a club under other circumstances.

"I don't think there are a lot of defining moments in that series," Davis said. "I mean, I think it's something that we're glad to have behind us. This is a group of guys that's been together for a number of years that knows what each other is capable of. We know what we expect from each other."

twitter.com/JonMeoli

Advertisement
Advertisement