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Friday Bird Droppings: The Orioles’ win streak faces its toughest test yet

After 10 games of beating up on mostly sub-.500 teams, the O’s will face a tough divisional rival, the Rays, to close the first half.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Chicago Cubs David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Camden Chatters.

We’ve arrived at the final series before the All-Star break, as the Orioles head to Tropicana Field to take on the Rays for three games. It’s the Orioles’ first visit to Tampa Bay since the opening series of this 2022 season, and boy, is there a different vibe around the team now than there was then.

Back in April — which feels like eons ago, doesn’t it? — the Orioles were beginning what was expected to be another hopeless, non-competitive season, another slow walk down the rebuilding path with no expectations of being relevant in this year’s playoff hunt. And indeed, the O’s got swept in that opening series, swiftly dropping them below a .500 mark to which few expected them to return.

Three months later, the Orioles head back to the Trop as the hottest and most surprising team in baseball, carrying an incredible 10-game winning streak that has lifted them over the .500 mark to 45-44. The O’s can assure themselves of a .500 record by the All-Star break if they can win at least one game of this series.

Do we dare dream that the Orioles will pull off their fourth straight sweep and head into the break with a 13-game streak? The way the O’s are playing right now, you certainly can’t doubt them. But the Rays will be the toughest test so far for the Orioles, who — aside from one win in Minnesota to start the streak — have racked up all their wins in this stretch against sub-.500 ballclubs. The AL East, which now boasts five winning teams, is a different animal than the AL West or NL Central. The O’s are in for a tooth-and-nail battle with the second-place Rays, who are coming off a four-game sweep of the Red Sox.

Whether the Orioles’ win streak survives this weekend or not, they’re playing must-watch baseball right now. What a refreshing change of pace it is from past years.


How the Orioles — yes, the Baltimore Orioles — became the hottest team in MLB - ESPN
Jesse Rogers dives into the reasons behind the Orioles’ turnaround, including the comprehensive analytical tools implemented by the Mike Elias regime. Remember when the O’s analytics department consisted of, like, one guy? It’s truly a new era in Birdland.

The Orioles are good again, and their elite defense is a big reason (you read that right) | Sporting News
Another reason for the Orioles’ success? Their defense, as Jason Foster writes. It’s amazing how much a team can accomplish when it has fielders playing the positions they're supposed to be playing, instead of the “square-peg-into-a-round-hole” strategy that previous O's teams employed.

The Baltimore Orioles Are On A 10-Game Winning Streak And The Talk Of Baseball -Forbes
Larry Fleisher discusses how far the Orioles have come compared to the depths to which they’d once fallen. Trigger warning: this story mentions the 2016 wild card game.

Orioles birthdays and history

Is today your birthday? Happy birthday! Only one Oriole in history was born on this day: 2005 right-hander James Baldwin (51). A major league pitcher and a prodigious author! He really was versatile.

The Orioles have an incredible 36-16 all-time record on July 15, including a memorable Brooks Robinson performance on this day in 1960. The Hall of Fame third baseman became the first Oriole ever to hit for the cycle, going 5-for-5 in the Birds’ 5-2 win in Chicago. After collecting two singles, a double, and a homer, Robinson saved the toughest one for last, socking a two-run triple in the top of the ninth. That gave Brooks hits in eight consecutive at-bats, as he’d been a homer shy of the cycle in his previous game.

On this day in 1996, manager Davey Johnson decided to move Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr. to third base after 2,216 consecutive games at shortstop. The move was meant to open up a spot for shortstop prospect Manny Alexander, but Johnson abandoned the idea after six games, in which Alexander went 1-for-18. Ripken moved back to shortstop for the rest of that season but shifted to third base permanently the next season.

And on this day in 2005, the Orioles’ Rafael Palmeiro collected his 3,000th hit, an RBI double in the top of the fifth inning in Seattle. It was a nice moment at the time, as the game was halted so Palmeiro’s teammates could celebrate with him on the field. Less than three weeks later, though, Palmeiro would test positive for the anabolic steroid stanozolol, earning him a 10-game suspension from MLB and forever tarnishing his accomplishments.