A winning homestand helped the Baltimore Orioles to their best start since 2000. As they prepare for their first road trip of 2008, they’ll be trying for their most successful season-opening stretch in nearly 10 years.
The Orioles will try for their sixth straight victory when they try to spoil the Texas Rangers’ home opener in the start of a three-game series on Tuesday.
Baltimore, which has had 10 straight losing seasons, has surged to a division-leading 5-1 start, matching the opening run it had in 2000. This game is the opener of a six-game road trip.
The Orioles have reeled off five straight wins, including Monday’s 5-4 victory over Seattle. Aubrey Huff homered in the eighth inning to break a 4-all tie, and give Baltimore its first four-game sweep of the Mariners since 1999.
“As a team, as a whole, we’re playing great baseball right now,” said Huff, who has two homers and seven RBIs this season. “I know it’s early, but we just swept a pretty good team over there. So obviously we’re feeling pretty good, and we just want to keep up the momentum.”
The Orioles finished with 10 hits for the second time this season, but it was their pitching staff that shined. After starter Daniel Cabrera gave up four runs, three relievers limited Seattle to one hit over three innings, including George Sherrill’s perfect ninth for his fourth save.
The bullpen, which has an 0.84 ERA so far, has limited opponents to just two runs, nine hits and has totaled 13 strikeouts.
“We’re in here to win baseball games,” first baseman Kevin Millar told the Orioles’ official Web site. “We’re playing great. It’s a 100 percent team effort. It’s a different guy every night. We’re getting great pitching out of our bullpen. It’s what you need.”
The Orioles are trying for their best start since opening 7-1 in 1998, but went 34-47 as visitors last season, including a 3-4 mark in Texas (3-3).
Baltimore hands the ball to Brian Burres (0-0, 0.00 ERA) in his first start this year. The left-hander, who started 17 of his 37 appearances last season, gave up one hit in one inning of a 6-2 loss to Tampa Bay on March 31.
Burres’ one relief appearance against the Rangers was disastrous, as he gave up eight runs and eight hits and recorded only two outs in a 30-3 drubbing on Aug. 22.
Burres, who turns 27 on Tuesday, has never pitched in Texas, but went 3-5 with a 5.12 ERA in 16 away games last season.
Texas returns for an eight-game homestand at Rangers Ballpark, where they are 6-8 in openers since it opened in April 1994.
The Rangers have alternated wins and losses in six games, and are coming off a 10-4 road victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday.
Catcher Gerald Laird went 4-for-5 with two homers and a career-high six RBIs for Texas, which hopes Jason Jennings (0-1, 7.20) can secure his first AL victory after giving up four runs and five hits in five innings of Wednesday’s 4-1 defeat at Seattle.
“It’s going to be a fun day. Hopefully I can go out and pitch a good game and give our fans a good show,” said Jennings, a Dallas native who signed with the Rangers on Jan. 25 after spending an injury-shortened season with Houston.
The right-hander’s lone appearance against Baltimore came June 17, 2005, when he beat the Orioles by allowing six hits, walking five, and striking out seven in seven scoreless innings of a 2-1 Colorado victory.
Texas was 6-4 in the 2007 series with Baltimore.