No victory, however satisfying, can redeem the disappointment from over a week of losing, and no one wearing the home white at Camden Yards on Memorial Day was under that illusion.
Yet in beating the visiting New York Yankees, 3-2, in a typically tense game for these Orioles this year, it was a welcome return to what worked for them so well earlier in the year and abandoned them fully over the just-ended seven-game skid.
Their early lead was enough. Their starting pitcher, Dylan Bundy, gave them seven strong innings. And at the end of two lockdown innings of relief from their top pair of remaining relievers, their fans drowned out those of the visitors, standing and shouting through the game's final at-bat for a win that felt a lot more like what they'd expected this year.
"That's where we thrive — these are the games we're going to win," said veteran reliever Darren O'Day, who pitched a scoreless eighth. "They're going to be close. It was an awesome game — Memorial Day, big crowd, nice day. I feel like it was the first time I've seen the sun in a while. It was good to get a win today."
On the surface, it all seems too plain to possibly be true. One good game, however nervy, doesn't erase the stink of seven straight losses, including two sweeps. But there's more to Monday's restorative powers than just a tick in the win column. The early 1 p.m. start means a night at home after a tough road trip. The win means they're still in touch with the rival Yankees and Boston Red Sox, the next two teams on their schedule and the teams they'll likely fight with for the division all summer.
And above all else, it means that the panic of a bad stretch in a long season might briefly dissipate.
The formula wasn't complicated, and it started with Bundy.
"Dylan was really good," manager Buck Showalter said. "That helped a lot."
In one way or another, he always seems close to his best. If he doesn't have his fastball velocity, his secondary pitches are too much for opponents to figure. If he doesn't have his command, his velocity can carry him. When he mixes command with as hard a fastball as he's shown all season, it's a tough matchup for even a difficult Yankees lineup.
He ended up pitching seven innings and scattering seven hits, with a second-inning run against him unjust because of some head-scratching defense behind him, but the seventh-inning home run to Yankees slugger Aaron Judge deserved. Judge, Bundy said, did what one should do with a fastball over the heart of the plate. He hit it 431 feet and halved the two-run lead earned by a double from Jonathan Schoop four innings earlier.
"That was my fault," Bundy said. "No biggie."
It ended up not mattering, as the Orioles weren't made to lament their missed chances early against Yankees rookie starter Jordan Montgomery.
They scored one in the first inning on a single by right fielder Mark Trumbo but left two on base. Two more were on in the second inning when first baseman Chris Davis struck out to end the frame. Schoop's two-run double in the third inning proved the difference, but the Orioles lost a chance to build on it in the fifth inning when Montgomery allowed a pair of one-out singles and gave way to the bullpen. The Orioles left both men on there, and didn't have a hit the rest of the way.
The unsteady flow of a season will mean Schoop's steady at-bats, Trumbo's four trips on base, and the grinding at-bats of Joey Rickard will be hard to savor considering the continued struggles of Davis and third baseman Manny Machado. Each went 0-for-4.
And of course, it can all change today. Showalter was emphatic in swatting away the suggestion of relief that the losing streak was over before allowing there may be a temporary weight lifted.
"It's a challenge, every day, to not live in that world and stay strong mentally through the challenges that every season presents — good and bad. It's one of those things that I talk to them all the time about things that separate you from some people that don't have the skills to do this. That's the difference."
His players were on the same key.
"I don't know if we had to have a win today, but yeah, you want to win every single day," Bundy said. "We were scuffling for a week or so, or two weeks. But we're ready to play every single day, so we'll be ready tomorrow."
"Every time you lose it's difficult — we lost like [seven] in a row — but you never think about it," Schoop said. "We come back today just like we were winning. Forgot everything in the past and tried to win today.
And the same is going to happen tomorrow."