Schmuck: Orioles keep things interesting with surprising hot start

Baltimore Orioles' Mark Trumbo is congratulated at the plate from teammate Manny Machado (13) after his three-run homer against the Boston Red Sox in the third inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park, Monday, April 11, 2016, in Boston.
Baltimore Orioles' Mark Trumbo is congratulated at the plate from teammate Manny Machado (13) after his three-run homer against the Boston Red Sox in the third inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park, Monday, April 11, 2016, in Boston. (Elise Amendola / AP)

To answer the question that has to be on the tip of every tongue in the Mid-Atlantic region, no, the Orioles have not yet asked Major League Baseball for permission to start printing playoff tickets.

It's at least a week too early for that.


The Orioles have opened the season on a terrific roll, which means that every time anyone refers to their unprecedented start there appears to be a legal requirement to remind everybody that it's way too early to draw any conclusions about the competitive quality of the team.

Of course it is, but that shouldn't keep Orioles fans from licking their lips at the prospect of making all those so-called experts eat their words if the club turns out to be way better than any of them predicted.


Remember, just about every national media entity that ranked each division before the start of the season had the Orioles residing in the damp, moldy cellar of the American League East. The sketchy starting rotation would keep them from being anything more than a .500 team.

Those of us who took a more positive view of the team could see that there was enough of everything else — unprecedented power, airtight defense and shutdown relief — to make this an exciting season.

It was obvious by the time the Orioles finished their offseason spending spree with the late acquisition of slugger Pedro Alvarez that they would, at the very least, be one of the most entertaining teams in baseball.

Monday's magical victory over the Boston Red Sox was a perfect example of what is probably going to be a fairly common plot structure this year. Yovani Gallardo struggled through five innings and gave up five runs. But the Orioles lineup battered Cy Young Award winner David Price for an equal number of runs over an equal distance and Chris Davis won the game with a signature moonshot to the deepest part of Fenway Park off one of baseball's most dominating closers.

It wasn't quite the storybook ending that Davis provided in 2012 when he pitched the final two innings of the dramatic 17-inning victory at Fenway that sparked a renewed belief in "Orioles Magic" after 14 straight losing seasons. But it certainly had a similar feel.

The Orioles showed up for Opening Day in Boston and dropped a nickel on the Red Sox's new $217 million starting pitcher, thanks largely to the booming three-run homer by newcomer Mark Trumbo that completed an early-inning comeback. They also ruined the celebration of David Ortiz's final Opening Day by squelching a promising ninth-inning rally by getting Big Papi to ground into a deflating double play.

Now, that's entertainment.

The Orioles have been one of the most newsworthy teams in baseball since the end of last season. They were one of the biggest spending teams in the free-agent market and they generated a ton of spring training attention with the strange machinations that accompanied their successful attempt to sign Gallardo and their unsuccessful attempt to sign outfielder Dexter Fowler.

Not long after that, the struggles of South Korean outfielder Hyun Soo Kim became one of the top stories in Florida and eventually bubbled into real controversy when Dan Duquette prematurely announced that Kim would not be on the Opening Day roster before being forced to keep him.

The nonstop front-office intrigue threatened to revive the old narrative that the Orioles were an organization awash in dysfunction, especially after the club went winless through the first two weeks of the exhibition season. But the subject changed in a hurry after the Orioles got off to the best start in club history.

Still, there's always something, like the report that surfaced Tuesday claiming that the Washington Nationals were interested in hiring Duquette away from the Orioles to be their new club president.

It was quickly denied by both teams, but it was more proof that whatever the Orioles turn out to be this year, they will never be boring.



Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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