Orioles Off to Best Start in 40+ years

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Joey Rickard’s off to a great start to his career, and he’s a big reason why through the first week of the season the Orioles sit 5-0.   Photo by USA Today Sports

The Baltimore Orioles weren’t picked by many to win the American League East. For that matter, the O’s weren’t picked by many to even make the playoffs.

Sure it’s early, but if the season ended today, Buck Showalter’s club would enter the postseason undefeated and with the best record in baseball.

Baltimore has won its first five games of the 2016 campaign, sweeping the Minnesota Twins in a three-game series to kickoff the year, and then taking both games played against the Tampa Bay Rays. (The series against the Rays was originally a three-game series, but Game 2 was postponed due to weather.)

Five wins and zero losses is the best start to a season in over 40 for the Orioles. The last time the Birds started 5-0 was 1970 – that Orioles team won it all.

And we may just be one week into this season, but recent history suggests that being the last undefeated team is a good omen of things to come. Over the last five seasons, the last team to suffer a loss has made it to at least the divisional round of the playoffs three times.

In 2011, the Texas Rangers started the season 6-0 to be the last undefeated team and they ended the season playing in the Fall Classic. 2014 saw the Detroit Tigers be the last to lose, and Detroit reached the ALDS.

Most recently, just one season ago, the Kansas City Royals began the year as the last undefeated team, and they went on to win the World Series.

As for this year’s Orioles club, it’s not just that they’re winning; it’s how they’re winning.

Baltimore has outscored its opponents by at least two runs in four out of the five games it’s played thus far, which not only means the hitters have been doing their job, but even more importantly, the starting pitching has been doing its job.

Hitting-wise, Mark Trumbo finished Sunday with the second-highest batting average in the American League at .474. Not too far behind is rookie Joey Rickard and fellow young stud Manny Machado (.429). Machado leads the team with three home runs and is tied for the team lead in runs batted in with four.

Rickard’s first season in the big leagues is off to quite a start. The Las Vegas native is hitting .444 through his first five games as a pro, with two of his hits going for extra bases including his first big-league home run in the series finale against the Twins Thursday night.

Most people that follow baseball knew the hitting would be there for the O’s, but coming into the season it was the pitching that was the big question mark. So far, though, the staff as exceeded expectations.

Yovani Gallardo pitched well in his first start with the club, going five innings and allowing just two hits while striking out four to earn a victory. Chris Tillman is also off to a 1-0 start, and has struck out 10 would-be hitters during his seven innings on the mound.

As a club Baltimore has by far the lowest ERA of any team in the majors, but the pitching staff has also given up the fewest runs, the second-fewest hits and is top 10 in both opponent batting average and strikeouts recorded.

All of this success on the mound has come with Kevin Gausman, who was looked at entering the season as the possible ace of the future on the staff, and key reliever Brian Matusz both starting the season on the shelf.

Matusz is aiming to return to the O’s sometime this week. Gausman is likely to come off of the Disabled List on April 20.

Baltimore’s early-season success will be tested over the next three days in Boston as the team takes on the Red Sox (3-2).

Much like the Orioles, Boston’s offense is high scoring, as the Red Sox have scored six or more runs in all but one game this year.

Baltimore’s attempt to take it’s undefeated record to 6-0 gets underway Monday at 2:05 p.m. against David Price.

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