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Pre-75th Birthday Musings on Orioles and Baseball's Wonderful Unpredictability

I'm not going to say that the Orioles are back in the AL East race on the basis of two satisfying wins at Tampa Bay on Sat. and Sun. But as a pre-birthday caution to myself,
I have dropped the idea of calling this blog entry "The Return of the Woerioles."

Perhaps from little victories big oaks will grow. Dylan Bundy stepped up on Sat. to pitch seven innings of three run ball - late thunder by the Birds led to a 8-3 win.

The score was not insignificant because Bundy's effort - and the work of relievers Donnie Hart and Mychal Givens - broke an embarrassing string of 20 straight games in which Oriole hurlers had given up five or more runs.

That ugly mark is now an unwelcome American League record and ties the 1924 Phillies for major league mound inefficiency. Those Phillies finished 55-96 and 7th in the National League.

The 2017 Orioles have slumped from first in early May to fourth in the five-team AL East. Yet they will resume play on Tuesday June 27 - my birthday - 37-38, only four games behind the Yankees who all of a sudden have lost 10 out of 12 games. The Red Sox are in a virtual tie with their great Bronx rival but they have sputtered lately too.

Since the Orioles burst into contention in 2012, they have not really had a mound ace, but Chris Tillman, a 9-year veteran, was the closest to it. On Sunday June 25 he showed flashes of his previous form at one point striking out four tough Rays in a row.
But he weakened in the 5th and gave up a three-run homer to personal nemesis Evan Longoria.

The Birds battled back and tied it on solo homers by sensational rookie Trey Mancini and increasingly reliable second baseman Jonathan Schoop. Defensively Schoop belongs on a Mount Rushmore of defenders for the way he stands in on a double play and rifles throws to first base. The former shortstop's range is also impressive.

Rays discard Joey Rickard got the game-deciding hit in the 9th, a double down the left-field line, and Brad Brach picked up a two-inning save. Last year's perfect closer Zach Britton should be back from injury in about 10 days, key veteran Darren O'Day is already back so the Orioles bullpen might become a force again.

IF THE STARTERS PROVIDE LENGTH. Still a big IF.

Only the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals are seeming locks to be in the post-season. I don't know if the late National League president Warren Giles ever
really said that his dream year was for every team to be near .500 come September, but it could be true for the NL Central and most of the American League in 2017.

To give you a sense of the delicious inconsistency in the A.L. - delicious if you are not an ardent Minnesota or Cleveland fan - the defending league champ Indians went into the Twins' Target Field a week ago and swept the Minnesotans and knocked them out of first place. This weekend the Twins turned the tables on the Indians at Progressive Field.

With more than a half-season to play, the best advice to all fans including yours truly is to take deep breaths and realize that the game of baseball is design to confound you. But if you throw strike one and play solid defense (meaning not giving any outs away), you will be in the hunt come September.

That's all for now - always remember: Take it easy but take it!
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