Their uniforms still say ”Orioles” on the front, yet these guys sure seem to play differently under Buck Showalter.
Cesar Izturis singled in the winning run in the ninth inning and Baltimore remained unbeaten under its new manager, defeating the Los Angeles Angels 5-4 Thursday night for a three-game sweep.
Since Showalter made his debut Tuesday, Baltimore has won three in a row and scored 20 runs. Before his arrival, the Orioles had lost 14 of 17 and were averaging 2.77 runs per game — second lowest in the AL.
Baltimore still owns the worst record in baseball (35-73), but the Orioles’ improved play under Showalter does not appear to be a coincidence.
”I’ve been watching these guys on TV. They’re totally different these last three games,” Angels outfielder Torii Hunter said. ”They’ve been hitting some good pitching, swinging the bats well, hitting doubles, hitting homers. A lot of guys, they’re doing their thing and stepping up.”
Matt Wieters led off the ninth with a double off Francisco Rodriguez (0-3). After pinch-runner Julio Lugo took third on a bunt by Corey Patterson, Los Angeles packed the drawn-up infield with six players.
Izturis then lined a single up the middle, sparking a wild celebration by the Orioles around first base.
Though Showalter has been the focus, he refused to take credit for Baltimore’s resurgence.
”That’s really not for me to say. It’s just something positive. God knows they’ve had enough negative,” the manager said. ”And they’d be the first to tell you it’s self-inflicted. I just step back and watch them (celebrate) at first base, knowing how challenging and painful this season has been so far. So to see them have three days to feel good about themselves makes me feel good.”
The change has come on the field, but some of the Orioles believe Showalter in the clubhouse has made a difference.
”His track record speaks for itself,” reliever Jason Berken said. ”Guys have a lot of respect for him. He’s done a great job; he’s going to do a great job. For us, it’s just a matter of really just putting all facets of the game together, and we’ve been able to do that so far.”
Nick Markakis homered and drove in two runs for the Orioles, who earned their first three-game sweep of the Angels since September 1999. Baltimore is 3-0 against Los Angeles this season after going 2-8 last year.
Berken (3-2) got the win despite giving up a three-run, game-tying homer to Hunter in the eighth.
Los Angeles has lost 11 of 14 and is 3-14 in its last 17 road games. Afterward, Manager Mike Scioscia kept the clubhouse door closed to address his slumping squad.
”I don’t feel the confidence out there on the field, and we need to get that back,” he said. ”This is obviously a disappointing series and a disappointing game tonight. It’s not as much the effort; we’re battling back. But I think our approach at times isn’t what we need to do.”
Said Hunter: ”We need to play better. We’ve got to push a little harder. I think right now we’re just coasting, all of us. We just need to go out there and grind. We don’t see the grind right now, and that goes for everybody.”
Orioles starter Jake Arrieta allowed two runs and four hits in 7-2/3 innings. He was lifted in the eighth after second baseman Brian Roberts fumbled a potential double-play ball, getting the force at second but leaving runners at the corners with two outs and Baltimore up 4-0.
Mike Gonzalez came in and yielded an RBI single to Bobby Abreu. Showalter then summoned Berken, who gave up Hunter’s shot to left.
Showalter was also encouraged by how Berken and the rest of the team remained positive after blowing a four-run lead.
”I looked for that,” Showalter said. ”That’s part of playing, not only in the big leagues, but in the American League. (There are) big, strong, hairy guys here. They hit it where the grass doesn’t grow.”
Los Angeles starter Dan Haren gave up four runs and 10 hits in 6-1/3 innings. He left with the score 4-0, but avoided his third loss in three starts since coming to the Angels in a July 25 trade with Arizona.
The game was scoreless until Markakis led off the sixth inning with his eighth home run. Adam Jones followed with a two-out double and scored on a single by Felix Pie.
After retiring the first 14 batters and limiting the Angels to one hit through six innings, Arrieta gave up successive singles to Hunter and Matsui at the start of the seventh before working out of trouble.
Baltimore made it 4-0 in the bottom half when Roberts hit an RBI double and scored on a single by Markakis.
NOTES: Six of Markakis’ eight homers have been solo shots. … Haren is winless since June 12.