I was happy to report last week that the Orioles got their win on Opening Day and Chris Tillman was looking pretty good from the mound. What I could not have expected was the week that was to follow.
Let’s jump to the headline. The Orioles have now won their first six games of the 2016 season. This was the best opening winning streak in the history of the Baltimore Orioles since moving from St. Louis (and changing their name from the St. Louis Browns) in 1954. In 62 years, it is their best start.
Sure, they had some close games to get to this point. I mean, they had to win a 9-7 come-from-behind game—born from Chris Davis’ monster three-run homer—to win game number six. But that’s what I mean, exciting baseball! And they are the only undefeated team left this season.
Today’s game was against the Boston Red Sox and the Bosox had their $200 million-plus ace David Price pitching. The Orioles just pounded the guy all day long, even after Boston had jumped to a 3-0 lead. The Red Sox thought they had it put away and brought in their All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel to finish off the Orioles.
The Orioles reliever Zach Britton had lost his sinker earlier and the Red Sox had fashioned a comeback of their own. Then Crush Davis made that top of the inning, three-run, two-out smash that put the Orioles ahead for good. Britton regained that sinker and shut the Red Sox down. It was his third save of the first six games, having retired 9 of the 11 batters he had faced.
The last time the Orioles had such a start was in 1970. That Orioles team went 5-0. What became of the 1970 Orioles team? They went on to a record of 108-54. They swept the American League Championship Series and won the World Series (4 games to 1) over the first great Cincinnati Reds team, soon to be called The Big Red Machine. Did I mention 4 games to 1 in the Series?
Also in today’s game, centerfielder Joey Rickard batted in the lead-off position for the fourth straight game. His lead-off hit was a double to open the game. He has now hit safely in each of the first six games, the first Orioles player to start his career with a six-game hitting streak since Howie Clark did it in 2002.
It is far-cry better than that 0-21 start way back when. And even a better start that the fabled 1970 campaign. The year that left-handed pitcher Mike Cuellar hit a Grand Slam in the ALCS against the Minnesota Twins, the only pitcher to ever do that in a League Championship Series. In that same year, pitcher Dave McNally hit a home run in Game Three of the World Series against the Reds. The only pitcher to do that in a World Series game. While I’m talking about Orioles’ pitchers, did you know that Jim Palmer never gave up a Grand Slam even though he pitched in 558 career games? Not one.
I’m not saying that the 2016 Orioles are going to surpass the 1970 Orioles team. But…