NEW YORK — Remember “Freaky Friday?” You know, that classic 1970s movie that pretty much started the whole identity-swap genre. The one in which a young Jodie Foster switches places with her mother, played by Barbara Harris. It was so good they remade it in 2003, only this time it was a young Lindsay Lohan getting mixed up with Jamie Lee Curtis. And that one was so good they remade it again in 2016, this time starring the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays. Roll credits:
CAST (In order of disappearance)
Daughter ……. Toronto Blue Jays
Mother ……… Baltimore Orioles
I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but at some point during the three-game O’s-Jays series earlier this week, those two teams totally switched identities. The Jays became the old, fogy mom, and the O’s transformed into the sprightly, young lady. Or something like that.
In Tuesday’s opener, the Orioles lost 5-1 to fall two games behind Toronto for the top American League wild-card spot (and just a game ahead of Detroit for the second spot) and generally looked like the lifeless team they’ve resembled all too frequently since the All-Star break. But if you watched Thursday’s rubber match, you saw a completely different outfit. Engaged and empowered after winning Game 2 on Wednesday, the Birds played balanced baseball and won 4-0 to pull even with Toronto in the wild-card race. You also saw the Jays more or less just standing there at home plate for much of the night, taking strike after strike, as though they were in a collective trance. The transformation was, well, freaky.
On Friday (naturally), the transformation continued. Facing the New York Yankees on a freaky weather night in the Bronx (constant mist, temps in the mid-50s), the Orioles’ offense awoke from its deep slumber, pounding out 10 hits en route to a convincing 8-1 victory over New York.
“We got a power team, and everybody is capable to catch one,” said second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who hit one of Baltimore’s three fifth-inning bombs to give him 25 homers on the season. After an 0-for-23 slump, Schoop now has five hits in his past three games. In other words, if you were making a movie trailer for this latest “Freaky Friday” reboot, he’d be prominently featured.
“Power is just one thing,” Schoop said. “We pitch, we defend, and we prove that we score not only when we hit home run. We score when we move the runner over, sac fly, everything. We’re a really good team.”
They’re even better when the back end of their rotation produces. A day after Ubaldo Jimenez allowed just one hit in 6⅔ scoreless innings in Toronto, starter Yovani Gallardo limited the Yankees to only a run on two hits in six frames. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s a combined one run on three hits in 12-plus innings for Jimenez and Gallardo, who’ve spent the majority of the season being two of least effective starters in all of baseball. Did I mention it was “Freaky Friday”?
“I was just able to keep the hitters off-balanced,” Gallardo said while the flat-screen TV in the visitors’ clubhouse showed Toronto making the final out of its 5-3 loss to Boston, thereby falling a game behind Baltimore for the top wild-card spot. “Mixing in some curveballs, some changeups and that sort of thing, which throughout the year I wasn’t able to do.”
As a result, Gallardo has now thrown back-to-back quality starts for just the second time this season. Including Gallardo’s outing Friday, the O’s have allowed a total of three runs in their past three games to finish September with a 2.90 ERA, lowest in the AL. Their 1.37 relief ERA for the month is the best in the majors.
Combine that kind of pitching with their usual workmanlike defense and a stirring offense, and with two days left in the regular season, the Birds suddenly have the look of a decidedly dangerous team … no matter what day of the week it is.