The Orioles hadn't been that close to .500 since April 29, and they can thank a season-best four-game winning streak fueled by a few strong performances from rookie starters. David Hernandez made his Major League debut Thursday, pitching into the sixth inning and holding the Tigers to five hits and one run.
"I think you could see it in our dugout," said center fielder Adam Jones, the self-appointed rookie welcoming party. "Everybody is jumping around. Everybody is happy. Everybody has smiles on [their] faces because the team is getting a little younger but it is getting more interesting. Everybody is enjoying it."
That goes for everyone, from manager Dave Trembley all the way down to the end of the bench. Baltimore has rallied around its rookie contingent, perhaps best personified by Hernandez, Brad Bergesen and Jason Berken. Most of the players believe the best is yet to come, an emotion that's been hard to come by in recent years.
"When I went out to the mound to take Hernandez out," said Trembley, "I had a couple guys say, 'Gosh, he threw good. He's got pretty good stuff. I didn't know he threw that hard.' ... These guys, they're sharp guys. They see it. It's real upbeat for them. That's what they want. And for the guys who have been here -- [Brian] Roberts, [Nick Markakis] -- it's a blast for them seeing Orioles guys come up through the system. That's fun for them."
And for Luke Scott, it's got to be fun just to show up to the park. Scott, who was activated from the disabled list Wednesday, went deep twice on Thursday to seal the win. His first shot gave the Orioles (22-26) a 1-0 lead, and Baltimore's designated hitter came back to blast a three-run home run in the eighth inning from the six-hole.
Scott had also homered Wednesday, giving him three homers in two days and eight for the season.
"It's a good slot for him, hitting where he's hitting," said Trembley. "He's a guy that, when he's in a groove, he likes that fastball. He usually doesn't miss it. He's been champing at the bit to come back. He told me he'd only need two games at [Class A] Delmarva, and that's all he needed. He's come up with some big, big hits for us."
Still, the story on Thursday night was the continued success of Baltimore's rookie starters. Koji Uehara went to the disabled list on Wednesday, opening a vacancy in the rotation for another pitcher. Berken had won his big league debut Tuesday, setting the stage for Hernandez (1-0) to follow in his footsteps.
The right-hander overcame a rocky first inning to assert himself and wound up stranding two runners in the fourth. Hernandez left in the sixth inning, and reliever Matt Albers successfully pitched out of a jam. Hernandez allowed five hits and walked four batters but was able to successfully limit Detroit's damage.
"It's nice to be here," Hernandez said. "It's more than I expected. The guys were real nice, welcomed me, introduced themselves. I met most of them at Spring Training, but it really made it easy for me."
Detroit (26-20) made things interesting in the eighth inning, trailing by just one run. Reliever Jim Johnson coaxed a double play in that tight spot, though, and Scott made sure the ending wouldn't be particularly close. Afterwards, Jones greeted Hernandez with a shaving cream pie, helping to ring in the rookie's first big league win.
"Jones is having a good time putting shaving cream in everybody's face," said Trembley. "He's having a real good time. It's driving me nuts, coming in my office all the time. He's just walking in my bathroom. He's not even asking anymore. He's a piece of work. Let them keep doing it, let them have fun. They're kids."
They're kids, but they're kids with poise. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Orioles became the first team in the expansion era to have four rookies (Uehara, Bergesen, Berken and Hernandez) win their Major League debuts in the same season. Only one other team had three, and that was the 2007 Yankees.
Now, the Orioles want to add more young players and just keep their momentum rolling.
"When you win, it's just a whole lot of fun," Trembley said. "And the last inning, I saw nine guys on the top step and on the rail. [Brian] Roberts called the home run in the dugout before Scott hit it. I mean, there's just a real good feel about what's going on. ... We've got a long way to go, but I felt a few days ago that we were starting to turn the corner. I think it always helps when you get good starting pitching.
"That's what always does it. Even when you get in jams, give up one [run]. Don't let the horse out of the barn by giving up four or five. You've got to stay away from that, and that's what we've been doing."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.