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No Kidding: Baltimore Orioles Sweep the First Place Rangers

Chris Tillman After enduring one of the most disappointing first halves to a season in franchise history, the Baltimore Orioles headed into the All-Star break with a surprising four-game sweep over the West Division leading Texas Rangers.

What makes the sweep particularly shocking is that Texas entered the series with a 31-15 home record while the Orioles were an abysmal 9-34 on the road before heading to Arlington.

Though not as hot as they had been in June when they won 11 straight games, the Rangers still entered the series against the team with the worst record in baseball riding a two game winning streak and 16 games over .500.

On the other hand, with the exception of one stretch in late June when they won four straight and five of six games, the Orioles have been abysmal throughout 2010. Baltimore entered the series with baseball’s worst record and having lost six of their previous seven games.

So, while everyone in baseball knows that anything can happen when you get between the white lines, what transpired in Arlington over the final four days before the All-Star Game would have been difficult for anyone to predict. 

It almost seemed like the two teams switched uniforms. For four straight days, the team with the orange bird on their hats looked poised and confident while the team with the big T on their hats seemed to get worse as the weekend went on.

Things started as could be expected with Texas jumping to a 4-0 lead in the opening game of the series. After asserting their dominance, it almost seemed like the Rangers put it on cruise control and expected the Orioles to wither away.

Though Baltimore has been awful all year, their one strength in recent weeks has been comeback victories.

Trailing 4-1 entering the seventh inning, Baltimore rallied with five runs over the next two innings to pull out a stunning 6-4 triumph.

Figuring the Orioles were just proving the blind squirrel theory with their victory, there seemed to be no reason to expect the Rangers wouldn’t rebound and dominate the remainder of the series.

In the second game, Texas again jumped out to a 4-0 lead and then led 6-2 entering the ninth inning. Shockingly, Baltimore scored four runs in the ninth inning to tie the game and won it with a run in the 10th inning.

After consecutive games in which Texas had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and the Orioles had rallied like a playoff contender, you couldn’t help but start to wonder if this was going to be one of those strange weekends.

Because Texas was rolling out their new weapon in lefthander Cliff Lee, acquired a day earlier from the Seattle Mariners, for the third game there was still an expectation that the Rangers would right the ship and restore order.

However, someone forgot to relay that message to the suddenly confident Orioles. Baltimore jumped out to an early lead with a first inning run and then made the score 5-0 before the Rangers were even able to get a hit off Baltimore starter Chris Tillman.

Looking like the All-Star pitcher on the mound that night, Tillman didn’t allow a hit until the seventh inning and left in the eighth inning having allowed only two hits and one runs. The 6-1 victory was the first of the season for Tillman while Lee fell to 8-4.

After three straight shocking games there was little doubt that destiny was on the side of the Orioles for the weekend. Sure enough, Baltimore scored three runs in the second inning to erase an early 1-0 deficit and held on for a 4-1 victory and a series sweep.

Rookie pitcher Jake Arrieta allowed just one run in six innings to earn his third victory since joining the Orioles in early June. He now has as many wins (three) as any other starting pitcher on the staff.

Even with the reversal in fortune for the four-game series, it is doubtful that much of consequence can be made from the baseball anomaly. The Rangers maintain a four and a half game lead in the AL West entering the break. Baltimore still holds the worst record in baseball though they now have just one less win than the Pittsburgh Pirates.

For the Orioles, the key will be to take the confidence earned during this series and use it to build toward a strong second half of the season. One of the unfortunate characteristics for the Orioles in recent years has been a solid start to the season followed by a horrible swoon over the final two months.

This year the Orioles started out horrendously, but now show signs of turning things around. If they can maintain a solid level of play over the final three months of the season they could be able to build some momentum for 2011.


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