When Buck Showalter took over as the Baltimore Orioles' manager early last month, the club was well on its way toward posting the majors' worst record and its first 100-loss season since 1988.
Neither of those two will happen now.
After rain delayed the opener of their final series, the Orioles begin a four-game set with a doubleheader Friday night against the visiting Detroit Tigers, who will be playing their second twinbill in three days.
Hired July 29 to reshape a team that struggled under former skipper Dave Trembley and interim manager Juan Samuel, Showalter has led Baltimore to a 31-22 record since taking over Aug. 3.
The club was a major league-worst 32-73 when he started.
Wednesday's 2-0 victory at Tampa capped off a 4-5 trip and guaranteed that the Orioles (63-95) won't reach triple-digit losses for the first time in 22 years.
"It's a little embarrassing to lose 100," Kevin Millwood said after throwing seven innings of two-hit ball. "We've played really good baseball here the last month-and-a-half. ... I think we're kind of clicking pretty much on all cylinders and I think we can play with anybody right now."
The Orioles, 16-10 at home under Showalter, will take that confidence into Friday's first game against Jeremy Bonderman (8-9, 5.18 ERA) after heavy rains pushed the opener back a day.
The right-hander, who made 20 combined appearances over the last two seasons due to shoulder problems, is 8 1-3 innings shy of reaching 175 for the first time since 2006. Bonderman, though, doesn't expect the Tigers to give him another chance in 2011 to prove he can stay healthy.
"It's part of the business. The Tigers have a good farm system," he said Sunday, a day after yielding seven runs over four innings of a 11-10, 13-inning win over Minnesota.
"I proved I'm healthy, but it's a matter of being more consistent. I have had games I've dominated and games like Saturday."
Facing the Orioles for the first time since April 30, 2007, Bonderman will try to help Detroit (80-78) avoid its first four-game slide since Aug. 4-7.
If Bonderman can't serve as a stopper, perhaps Rick Porcello (10-11, 5.01) can. The right-hander takes the ball in the nightcap looking to win his sixth straight decision.
His latest outing was arguably his best of the season. Porcello held the AL Central champion Twins to a run and four hits over eight innings in a 5-1 win on Sunday.
For either Bonderman or Porcello to get a victory, the Tigers will likely need their bats to respond after totaling six runs while getting swept at Cleveland - which included two losses Wednesday after a Tuesday rainout.
Both pitchers they'll face had success earlier this month at Comerica Park. Chris Tillman (1-5, 6.56), who will oppose Bonderman in the opener, held the Tigers to a run over 6 2-3 innings Sept. 12, though he walked six while leaving without a decision in Baltimore's 6-2 loss.
Tillman is 0-1 with a 7.45 ERA in his last two starts and gave up three homers in a 6-4 loss at Toronto last Friday.
Jeremy Guthrie (10-14, 3.98) surrendered three homers to the Blue Jays the next night in a 5-4, 11-inning loss. He went seven scoreless innings in a 5-3 victory at Detroit on Sept. 11
Despite a 7.94 ERA in his last two outings, Guthrie became the first Oriole since Mike Mussina and Sidney Ponson in 1999 and 2000 to post back-to-back 200-inning seasons.
"Even though it may not seem like it in the season we've had as a whole, that's impressive," Showalter said.
The Tigers have won four of six against the Orioles - all at Comerica Park. In the teams' last matchup at Camden Yards, they split a four-game set May 28-31, 2009.