Love the longball, but O's need to find other ways to score runs

As the Orioles and Rays battle it out for first place in the AL East this weekend, the same question is continually asked: Can the Orioles keep up the pace? It applies to everything - winning, pitching and lately hitting for power.

Tampa Bay Rays reporter Todd Kalas told me the same question was the underlying theme of the Rays' 2008 season, the one in which Tampa finally ended a decade of last place finishes and went to a World Series.

It comes with the territory. When a fan base has watched its team lose consistently, it's hard to accept winning is here to stay. Kalas told me the entire Rays community spent 2008 waiting for the bottom to fall out. It never did.

Maybe it won't for the Orioles either.

Let's get back to the power question. Can the O's continue to jack balls out of the park?

Coming into the weekend, the Orioles' 50 homers led all of baseball - even topping the tough-slugging Rangers. During an eight-game stretch spanning the Yankees, Red Sox and Rangers series, the Orioles hit 20 home runs. They even made a little history Thursday, hitting a trio of homers to lead off Game 1 of a doubleheader. The 2007 Brewers were the last team to do that.

Power has been abundant, especially at Camden Yards, a hitter's park. So far this season, 32 percent of the Birds' run production has come via the longball. I don't know whether that's a good or bad thing. Conventional wisdom tells you, heck yeah, why not score one run with one swing of the bat? It's quite efficient.

I have to wonder though, will the O's eventually need to show the ability to produce runs other ways? O's executive vice president Dan Duquette spent the entire offseason emphasizing on-base percentage. Having an offense that can manufacture a run will come in handy, especially in pitchers' parks like Oakland and Seattle.

Also, there will be many times over a 162-game season where the Birds will need situational hitting - the ability to just hit a well-placed ground ball.

I'm not saying they can't, I'm just saying they'll need that in their bag of tricks.

Still, I'll take power any day. It's a big reason the O's are fighting for first place in mid-May. It's the O's best start since 2005, and Brian Roberts told me there are some similarities between the two teams.

According to Roberts, the 2005 lineup - hitters one through seven or eight - were capable of hitting the three-run homer at any point in the game. The 2012 Orioles are the same. And there's no doubt in knowing that makes any deficit seem surmountable.