The Orioles know that one hot week doesn't mean much in the grand scheme of things, but they seem excited to put 2007 behind them and to address some positive storylines for the first time in recent memory.
"We had six [straight] last year? It didn't feel like it," said designated hitter Aubrey Huff, who reached base five times Tuesday. "We're playing good baseball right now, [but] I know it's early and we have a long way to go. We just have to keep being relaxed and having a good time. There's not a lot of expectations on us this year. Most of you guys have written us off before the season started. There's really nothing for us to do, but go out there and have a good time and play baseball."
Baltimore has done exactly that in the last week, and five of its six victories have been by three runs or less. The season started modestly with a 6-2 loss, but the Orioles (6-1) rebounded by beating the Rays once and earning a four-game sweep over Seattle. And then came Tuesday, which presented their first chance to take their karma on the road.
Their luck held strong, thanks to a strong start from southpaw swingman Brian Burres and a full team effort at the plate. Eight of the road team's nine starters reached base safely, and four different Orioles drove in runs. The heavy lifting came from Huff, who drove in four runs, and left fielder Luke Scott, who homered and had his third multi-hit game.
That was all more than enough for Burres, who celebrated his 27th birthday by blanking the Rangers (3-4) through six-plus innings. Burres gave up a hit and was eventually charged with a run in the seventh inning, but the bullpen kept things from ever getting close. And in the aftermath, both managers opined that Burres was the difference in the game.
"That guy threw a pretty good game for six innings," said Texas manager Ron Washington. "He ran out of gas in the seventh and they came right out and got him. We just couldn't get anything going off him."
"I've seen him pitch good before," added Baltimore manager Dave Trembley. "He changed his pattern of pitching the second and third time around with their lineup. I thought he was predominantly using the fastball the first time around and then after that his curveball really came into play for him. He got big outs with the curveball."
Perhaps no out was bigger than one Burres got in the fourth inning with his team leading by four runs. Texas had loaded the bases with two outs, and Burres ran a deep count against left fielder David Murphy. But instead of giving in and throwing Murphy something hittable, Burres dropped his arm angle and struck him out on a curveball.
Burres (1-0) also got double plays in the third and fifth innings, but the fourth may have been his biggest test.
"That was big," he said of striking out Murphy. "It was just something that worked out, a new look. He didn't know what was going on, and you can really tell it messed with him a bit. It helped us get out of a jam."
The victory also exorcised some demons for Burres, who hadn't pitched against Texas since playing a part in last year's record-setting 30-3 rout. Burres allowed eight earned runs in that game and said he was glad to put it behind him.
"I didn't look at that tape, because I usually like to look at me doing a little better than that," he said. "I really just tried to take it like any other start -- study up and try to get to know how to get the hitters out."
The Orioles scored twice in the second inning on a solo home run from Scott Moore and a one-run single by Brian Roberts, and they made it a four-run game when Scott took Jason Jennings (0-2) deep for a two-run blast in the third.
Huff, who had four hits, was involved in the game's most controversial play. With his team leading by four runs in the top of the sixth inning, Huff lifted a long fly ball off the yellow line on the top of the right-field wall. The shot was initially called a three-run homer, but was eventually changed to a two-run double after an on-field discussion.
After the game, both Trembley and Huff said that the umpires made the correct call.
"If it hits the yellow line and comes back, it's in play," said Trembley, who had engaged in an animated on-field conversation with the umpires. "If it hits the yellow line and goes out, it's a home run. It didn't leave the ballpark."
"I initially thought it hit the red part behind the yellow line," said Huff. "That's the way I saw it. I was giving [second-base umpire Sam Holbrook] the business out there at second. After I came in and looked at the tape and saw they were right, I was fortunate to get back on second and I said, 'Sam, I'm sorry.' He said, 'I know, I got it right.' He knew."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.