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May 17, 2005

Welcome to the Twilight Zone

by Pratik Bhandari, Page Editor
Tampa Bay is in last place as expected. Boston is in second. Toronto is in the middle of the pack. Yankees are in fourth. Wait a minute… the Yankees are in fourth and the Orioles are in first?

Almost as newsworthy as the Orioles unexpected rise to the top of the AL East is the Yankees plummet to the bottom. Yankee fans have hope, however, as they are only five games out of first place and are on a nine game winning streak. The overachieving Orioles have demolished all the preseason predictions, blazing out of the gate and compiling an impressive 24-13 record as of May 17. The remarkable record is a byproduct of pleasant surprises like Brian Roberts and the emergence of young pitchers Daniel Cabrera, Erik Bedard and Bruce Chen.

Roberts, once known only as the guy who was battling Jerry Hairston for second base, has become a household name, in Baltimore at least, as he's muscled out 10 homers, hit for a .382 average, driven in 32 runs, scored 31 times himself and stolen 13 bases as well. After hitting 50 doubles last year, Roberts has been able to convert some of those into homers with the help of his offseason training program in Tempe, Arizona. But maybe more surprising than Roberts metamorphosis into an elite second baseman is the amazing play of the Orioles young rotation.

Baltimore is getting quality innings out of their pitchers, most notably Bedard, Cabrera and Chen. Chen has gone 4-2 with a 3.88 ERA, with one complete game and 30 strikeouts already to his credit. Cabrera had an absolutely phenomenal game against Minnesota, where he pitched eight innings of shutout ball, striking out 11 with pitches that topped 100 mph on the radar gun. And Bedard has been playing out of his mind all season long. He has a 4-1 record with a 2.35 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 53.2 innings. Much credit goes to new pitching coach Ray Miller who took over from Mark Wiley last June. He inherited, basically, the same staff as Wiley had and lowered the team ERA from 4.70 to a paltry 3.95.

The Orioles are now feeling pretty good as they are in first place with a quarter of the season gone. Nobody outside of the clubhouse expected them to be in first, but every day they stay there, more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon. This past week was the Orioles first major test as they played the major League leading Chicago White Sox without two-thirds of their Opening Day outfielders as Sammy Sosa is sidelined for close to a month with a foot infection and Luis Matos is out more than a month with a broken index finger. After losing the first two of a four-game series against John Garland and Mark Buehrle the Orioles battled back and won the last two games, splitting the series.

Who knows whether or not the Orioles will be able to keep up this breathtaking streak? It'll all depend on the pitching staying good throughout the season. Whatever the case may be, enjoy this while you can because the Yankees are not going to stay in fourth place the whole season long.

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  • dave (View Email) on May 17, 2005 at 10:55 PM
    the O's will do well as long as they continue to slug the baseball, which helps those young pitchers out if they quit hitting, as their defense is only fair, and those pitchers have not had too many one run games yet, to see if their winkers get a little tight....all in all it has been exciting.
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