A two-time Manager of the Year, Showalter rarely budged from the home dugout railing in the first six innings, as if a closer look might reveal that this wasn't actually the 2010 Orioles. But there it was: a team that has had a hold on the worst record in the Majors for most of the season delivering two-out hits, solid starting pitching and showcasing a spark that had previously gone by the wayside.
"I'm happy for them," Showalter said of a much-maligned O's offense that scored nine runs in the first four innings. "I really am. Because I know their track record shows that, for the most part, they're better than that."
The O's wasted little time dispelling the doubt. There was Cesar Izturis' second-inning sacrifice bunt to move a pair of runners into scoring position, or Ty Wigginton's two-out, two-run single, part of a five-run fourth that saw another anomaly: an opposing pitcher chased early. Angels starter Ervin Santana entered Wednesday's start having gone at least six innings in seven straight starts, but turned in his worst start of the season thanks to the O's offensive awakening.
"We cured those [runners in scoring position woes] the last two days," said second baseman Brian Roberts, who suffered a left shin bruise in the first inning and exited following a 24-minute, sixth-inning rain delay. "Everybody is swinging the bat great. It's certainly something that we're all excited about, the way things are going right now."
Baltimore chased Santana after 3 2/3 innings, tagging him for nine earned runs -- nearly double his previous season high -- on 12 hits. Luke Scott continued a torrid stretch, blasting a two-run homer for his third consecutive game with a long ball, while Felix Pie went 3-for-4 with a triple and three RBIs, stealing his second base in as many nights.
"Everybody's been waiting," said Showalter of Pie, who has shown flashes of brilliance but has been unable to stay healthy and be a real difference-maker. "Sometimes you're a prisoner of your skills, because everybody sees the skills that he possesses, and we all know there's more to this game than just skills.
"You can see why Chicago and Baltimore have been upbeat about his potential."
And then there was rookie Brian Matusz. Exactly a year removed from his big league debut that had the Orioles eagerly awaiting the future, Matusz -- coming off a dismal four-start stretch -- reminded the crowd exactly why there is still reason to believe. The 23-year-old lefty scattered seven hits over six innings, for his first quality start -- and win to show for it -- since July 4.
"I have had a lot of ups, have had a lot of downs," said Matsuz -- reflecting on his first year in the bigs. "Still here. Even after a couple bad starts recently, I'm still here. And I was able to come out and just pitch my game, and that's what I am most happy about."
But as good as Wednesday's win was, it was far from perfect. The Orioles lost three players -- Roberts, Josh Bell and David Hernandez -- and reliever Matt Albers allowed four earned runs while recording just one out to follow Matusz.
While Roberts and Bell (left hamstring cramps) sustained minor injuries and both expect to play Thursday, Hernandez is likely headed to the disabled list. He suffered a Grade 2 left ankle sprain while trying to back up home plate in the seventh inning, which, upon initial examination, will keep him sidelined for 10-14 days.
Showalter said the team will prepare for the possibility of Hernandez going on the DL, and reiterated that Roberts and Bell should be fine in the next day or so.
Hernandez left the game with the O's lead down to three, and Koji Uehara came on to record the final out of the five-run seventh and followed that up by striking out the side in a huge momentum-turning eighth. After giving up a quick run, closer Alfredo Simon wiggled his way out of trouble in the ninth and was aided greatly by Torii Hunter's failed attempt to steal third. Wieters gunned out Hunter, who would have scored on Juan Rivera's single, for the inning's first out to clear the basepaths and help settle down Simon en route to his 16th save.
"I think we always believed we could win," Jones said of the Orioles' first second-half series victory and first over the Angels since 2006. "It's just a matter of doing it."