It's easy to look at the Orioles' record and see just how different this year's team is from last year's, but it wasn't until last night that I realized how much the overall mentality of the entire club has changed.
On MASN's postgame show, O's Xtra, I interviewed Kevin Millar and suggested that it must be comfortable going into game 3 of the Houston series knowing that no matter what the result in the finale, the O's had won the series. Millar's face turned very serious as he explained how huge the upcoming series finale was. He told me, "We're going for the sweep."
Going for the sweep? What? I never thought of that goal. Last year, the O's would have been ecstatic to win a series, any series---not this year; the Birds want to win every game, not just series. It's called a winning mentality, and it's how players on playoff-caliber ballclubs think. It's sad that after covering this team for 5 years, this mentality was completely foreign to me, and the whole exchange with Millar caught me off guard.
Apparently Dave Trembley talked to his players about this issue earlier in the homestand. The skipper told me he felt there was a sense of complacency with this club in years past. He said it's time for this team to step up to the next level and challenge themselves to come away with some series sweeps. The Birds have had 6 opportunities to do that this year and have lost in the respective series finales each time.
Not last night. The O's swept the Astros. Maybe this is the beginning of that "next level" for the Birds. Could that level lead to the playoffs? If there's one thing this team believes, it's that there's no harm in thinking big.