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Orioles magic reaches 100-game mark

Leading after seven, Baltimore's been in can't-lose mode since 2011

BALTIMORE -- Mojo, magic, manager. ... Call it whatever you want, it's back for another year.

The most baffling team in baseball from 2012 is doing it again. Theoretically we live in an enlightened age, where we know that explanations like "destiny" aren't really explanations at all, but excuses for the inability to find actual causes for things.

Then you watch the Orioles, and you scratch your head. And maybe you reconsider a stance like that.

At some point, the O's will lose a game they lead in the late innings. At some point, manager Buck Showalter will pull the wrong lever, and the Orioles' just-enough starting pitching will be not enough, and this remarkable run will come to an end.

But we've been waiting since the end of the 2011 season, and it hasn't happened yet. And at some point, even the most rational of us just have to tip our caps, smile and say, "it's more Orioles magic."

Tuesday's 4-3 win over R.A. Dickey and the Blue Jays was Baltimore's 100th consecutive victory when it held a lead after seven innings, dating back to August 2011. That's the second longest by any team since at least 1961. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, then maybe those of us who are waiting for things to change are a little bit crazy.

"Last year in the beginning, people started saying it was good luck or whatever," said reliever Pedro Strop, who pitched a shutout inning on Tuesday. "People kept saying it was just one season, so we want to want to prove whoever's saying that wrong."

The O's hewed to their tried and true formula on Tuesday, with a small wrinkle. They got six solid but unspectacular innings from starter Miguel Gonzalez, three superb innings from that relief corps and some very slick defense. The difference was how they did it on offense, scoring four runs without a homer, while drawing six walks.

Overall, though, it wouldn't have looked the slightest bit out of place at any point during their memorable 2012 run. The win moved Baltimore to 12-8, one game behind first-place Boston in the American League East. They're 127-93 since Aug. 22, 2011, -- the second-most wins of any team in the Major Leagues in that span.

At some point, it's not a fluke. At some point, it's just what they do. They have good relievers. They have a manager who is superb at deploying those relievers. They make plays on defense, score some runs and eke enough out of a no-name starting staff to put leads in the hands of those relievers. Lather, rinse, repeat.

"There's just no panic," said outfielder Nate McLouth. "We have a lot of confidence, especially the guys in the bullpen, when it's a one-run lead, two-run lead, whatever. The confidence in those guys is extremely high."

The easy thing to miss about these O's is that it's not just the pitching and defense. They really do have a pretty good offense. A year ago, they hit just enough to win. This team's lineup is better and deeper than the one that Showalter had at hand for most of 2012.

They're second in the league in runs scored, and while Chris Davis and Adam Jones are likely to backslide a bit, it's just as likely that Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy, and even Nolan Reimold will improve. Nick Markakis looks like his old self, and McLouth seems to be back from wherever it was his offensive game went for two years.

There's not a lot of room for error on the offensive side. An injury to a core player would be extremely costly. But the lineup the O's trot out on a nightly basis is quite good. If they stay healthy, they'll score more runs than they did last year, and certainly enough to win plenty of games.

Mix that with some good relief work, and maybe a little magic, and it could be another fun summer at Camden Yards.

Matthew Leach is a writer for Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach.
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