NORFOLK (WAVY)- It’s hard to imagine that headline before the mid-point of the baseball season. At one point, the Tides hovered around 20 games below .500, and owned one of the worst records in the International League.
Since the All-Star break, the Tides (57-65) own the second-best record of any team in the league. “We’re alot more relaxed around here,” said outfielder Mike Yastrzemski. “We’re not trying to do too much. We’re not trying to hit home runs on every swing, we’re trying to pass it along to the next guy and have fun.”
It’s fun when you win, and the Tides have done plenty of it over the past month and a half, winning five series and tying two others. The difference, as always, starts on the mound.
“Early on in the year, I think we had a lot of inconsistency based on what was happening with the big league team (parent club Baltimore) and as a result, our pitching staff here was subject to a lot of movement,” said shortstop Paul Janish. “I think that was the biggest thing earlier on in the season for us.”
Manager Ron Johnson agrees. “Our starting pitching has been night and day since the last six weeks,” he said.
Not only are the Tides winning, the nation knows about it, thanks to Yastrzemski and Johnson’s son, second baseman Chris Johnson, who both made plays worthy of Sportscenter’s coveted Top Ten list during the team’s current stretch. Johnson skied to snag a ball near the gap in right-center field, while Yastrzemski dove for a ball near the track down the left field line and crashed up against the outfield wall in right field to steal another hit.
“In the moment you’re not thinking about it,” said Yastrzemski. “You’re not thinking, ‘I need to make a highlight-reel play.'”
He did, and the Tides have followed, having won 12 of their last 18 games. Unfortunately, they’re still a virtual lock to miss the playoffs, barring a miracle. But Johnson is excited about the prospects of seeing a number of his players help out the Orioles, who are right in the thick of the playoff hunt.
“There’s a lot of areas we have coverage with,” said Johnson. “Arms, veteran bats, young bats, good players, speed, I think we’ve done a real good job stocking this team.
So, that there are opportunities and there are options for (Manager Buck Showalter), whoever is called up.”