There’s really nothing quite like the magic of the Baltimore Orioles. In many places, such as Sports Illustrated and Sports on Earth, the O’s, coming off an average year and sporting a subpar pitching rotation, were picked to finish the 2016 season last in the AL East.
It made sense. Baltimore finished 2015 with an even .500 record and made no great moves to improve a pitching staff that finished near the bottom of the American League. They added Mark Trumbo and Pedro Alvarez in a seemingly strange attempt to corner the market on high-power/low-on base players and went through a disastrous episode with international signing Hyun-soo Kim.
And yet. Orioles Magic.
The O’s beat the Boston Red Sox 9-6 today thanks to a Chris Davis three-run homer in the 9th inning to improve to 6-0. It’s the club’s best start since moving to Baltimore and kept the Birds as MLB’s lone undefeated team for at least one more day.
How? Orioles magic, baby.
This isn’t to say that any of those experts will be wrong at the end of the season. There are still 156 games to play and they are the experts for a reason. But still,there are plenty of reasons for Orioles fans to get excited and be optimistic that this early season success will continue.
One is the incredibly fun early play of rookie Joey Rickard. A Rule 5 pick from the Tampa Bay Rays’ organization, Rickard lit it up in Spring training won the team’s starting left fielder job. Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter love Rule 5 picks and if Rickard can continue his early play (a .444 batting average with 3 RBI and a home run) this one could be their best pick yet.
Chris Tillman is another reason for optimism. Tillman started his third consecutive opening day, putting him in elite Orioles company and, while that start was cut short by rain, his first seven innings have looked very good. If Tillman can return to All-Star form the Orioles’ staff might not look as bleak as it did prior to Opening Day.
Still, the strongest case for the Orioles’ continued success is and will be Manny Machado. The Orioles’ star third baseman might be the only player not named Trout or Correa who can win the MVP this season. No one handles the hot corner better and, if he can continue to grow on offense (35 home runs last season, three through the first six games) he could very well carry the Orioles to the post season.
There is still more than enough time for Baltimore to fall back to earth, but Charm City can be a wondrous place and the Orioles have made magic happen before.