BALTIMORE — Ask away. Ask why, or how, or when, or even what? You’ll get answers, many flowery, insightful and eloquent. You’ll elicit smiles, many absent from years past. But there’s still trouble trying to explain what exactly is unfolding in Baltimore.
How have the Orioles — thrust from the basement in rebuilding years past to the hottest team in baseball after Sunday’s 9-5 victory over the Angels at Camden Yards pushed their winning streak to eight games — done this?
“It’s crazy,” said first baseman Ryan Mountcastle. “I mean, it seems like each and every day, we just go out there and we’re gonna win. I don’t know. It’s just this weird aura or vibe .
“I don’t know what’s going on. But it’s awesome.”
The Orioles’ win streak has propelled them to just one game below .500 (43-44) and 2 1/2 games out of an American League Wild Card spot as of the last out on Sunday. Those are modest milestones, granted, but far cries from the last four years of rebuilding, three 100-loss campaigns in tow.
Three wins amid this streak — their longest of any kind since they won 12 in a row between September 2015 and April 2016, and their longest within a single season since April 22-May 1, 2005 — have been walk-offs, making it all the most captivating. Only Sunday’s was by a margin greater than three runs.
It was a comeback anyway, capping Baltimore’s first undefeated homestand of at least seven games since Aug. 3-9, 2004. The Orioles’ show was baseball’s Sunday matinee.
“This is a really fun team,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “Go into our clubhouse right now. There’s a lot of energy. Guys really like each other. They’re a very, very tight group. It’s fun right now.”
This streak’s victory was in a different sense altogether. The Orioles responded to Monte Harrison’s two-run homer off Austin Voth with all nine of their runs between the fourth and sixth innings, including four-run frames in the fourth and fifth. All of their damage, highlighted by RBI doubles from Mountcastle and Anthony Santander, remained in the yard, and they got multihit performances from Trey Mancini and Ramón Urías. Two runs came on a passed ball and a wild pitch in the fifth inning.
Remember the feelings of the past four years, when it felt as if anything that could go wrong, did go wrong? There’s a different vibe in Baltimore these days.
“It’s easy to kind of not come out with energy today after an emotional week and being down 2-0 early,” Hyde said. “But our guys stayed in it, there was a ton of encouragement, like always, in the dugout. [I] thought we played really good baseball.”
But what is different about these Orioles?
Talent is the first change you’ll hear. They’re younger, more physically adept, more opportunistic. Next up is their balance of wily veterans — Jordan Lyles, Mancini, Jorge López, Rougned Odor and Robinson Chirinos’ impact is palpable — alongside emerging youth; Adley Rutschman and Kyle Bradish are just the first arrivals from baseball’s top-rated farm system.
The Orioles are 29-20 since May 19, two days before Rutschman was called up.
But a lot is the same from years past. It’s a similar core with Mancini, Austin Hays, Santander, Cedric Mullins and others. (They’ll all tell you they’re more comfortable with another year under their belts.) And the Orioles continue to fill roster spots with waiver claims. Only this year, whether it be the quality of talent they find or the ability to squeeze out such talent in-house, the results are miles ahead.
Voth is yet another example. His five-inning outing on Sunday was the longest of his Orioles tenure since moving to the rotation, and he was tagged for one run-scoring hit (on Harrison’s home run) and added six strikeouts to finish just one shy of his career high. A member of the 2019 World Series champion Nationals, he knows what it’s like inside a vibrant, rejuvenated clubhouse.
“What I’ve witnessed is good chemistry among everyone,” Voth said. “In 2019, what we had was good chemistry and guys just coming together and being able to joke around and play well. I’m starting to see that here.”
There has been “Orioles Magic” in 1979, the “Why Not?” Orioles of 1989, the “Birdland Power Co.” of the mid-2010s.
The 2022 Orioles are nickname-less. Yet they’ve gotten this far. It’s anyone’s guess how far it’ll go.
“We’ve won a lot of different ways,” Hyde said. “More winning breeds more confidence.”