CINCINNATI -- How good are the Orioles? After a 6-3 road trip to Boston, Toronto and Cincinnati April 11-20, they ran their record to 10-4, the best record in baseball.
Their 2-1 win against the Reds in 10 innings before 11,910 at Great American Ball Park April 20 gave them another series win. Of their five series so far this season, they've won four and split one, a two-game series in Boston.
The Orioles' nine-game trip looked daunting. Besides their two games at Fenway Park, they had to play four games against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, where they've won just one season series since 2006, and three more here against a team they were totally unfamiliar with.
While the Reds are in a rebuilding mode, they featured outstanding young left-hander Amir Garrett, who struck out 12 Orioles in seven innings April 19, and a bullpen that allowed one run on five hits in nine innings while striking out 13.
But that one run was a 10th-inning RBI single by shortstop J.J. Hardy April 20 that sent the Orioles home on a happy flight.
"It will be a sleepy flight. It means we won more games than we lost, and we're going home to some friendly faces," manager Buck Showalter said. "It's been one of the longer trips in a lot of ways. It just seems like early in the year to be gone this long."
The Orioles face the Red Sox for a three-game series beginning April 21.
"I think everybody's looking forward to getting home, but it's a quick turnaround," Showalter said. "You're going to get in and get to bed at 4 o'clock in the morning; you're going to turn around and figure out a way to compete against one of the best teams in baseball. We played a hot team here and we got out of here 2-of-3 because we pitched real well except for the first day."
Eight of the Orioles' 10 wins have been by two or fewer runs, but in three of their four losses, including the series opener April 18, they've lost by four or more.
"We knew coming in that Cincinnati was playing real well, and we were going to have to get some well-pitched games," Showalter said.
Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez threw 7.2 innings April 19, and left-hander Wade Miley followed with eight innings April 20.
"That's what we try to do. I think all of our starting pitchers. They try to get as deep into a ballgame as they possibly can," Miley said. "I was able to get some early outs tonight, which helped get me deeper in the ballgame. Sometimes it's tough when hitters put up good at-bats. We were able to maneuver and get pretty deep, and Ubie did a good job last night."
Hardy said he's not surprised by the team's fast start.
"Pitching, timely hitting, hit some homers, it's kind of the way we expect to play," Hardy said. "I don't think we're too surprised about the way things are turning out. We've got a lot of confidence in here."
BRACH CONTINUES TO SHINE: Brad Brach picked up his second save in as many nights with a perfect 10th. In eight innings, the right-hander has allowed one hit and three walks. He's struck out 12 of his 28 batters this season.
Darren O'Day worked a spotless ninth for the win. The right-hander is now 27-10 in his six seasons with the Orioles.
AQUINO GETS A START: Left-hander Jayson Aquino, who was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk April 19, has been scheduled to start against the Boston Red Sox April 22.
Aquino was chosen over right-hander Alec Asher, who allowed a run on three hits in 6.1 innings at Toronto April 21, because the Red Sox have more left-handed hitters than the Blue Jays. They're also eager to see Aquino, who is making his first major league start, in that role.
WAITING ON SMITH: Outfielder Seth Smith, who left the game April 18 with a strained right hamstring, showed no change in condition.
"If there's not some improvement between now and tomorrow, we'll have to think about making an adjustment," Showalter said.
If Smith is placed on the 10-day disabled list, he'd be eligible to play April 29.
RICKARD IMPROVING: Outfielder Joey Rickard, who is on the 10-day disabled list with a sprained right middle finger, is progressing toward a return.
Rickard has begun to throw and is scheduled to take batting practice throughout the next two days. If he doesn't have any ill effects from the batting practice, he could be sent on a rehab assignment shortly.
TILLMAN GETTING READY: Right-hander Chris Tillman threw a bullpen session and is scheduled to pitch at Frederick at 2 p.m. April 22. Tillman should go four innings and could throw as many as 60 pitches.
PIEING: After the Orioles' win April 19, MASN television viewers noted the return of the post-game pies. The ritual was banned for safety reasons prior to last season.
Center fielder Adam Jones pied winning pitcher Jimenez. It was the first time the right-hander was pied, and he seemed to enjoy it.
Jones declined comment, saying that it was "a non-story."
Showalter was unaware the celebration had returned, but said he would address it.
"I guess I should look into it," Showalter said. "I'll handle it. We always do."
COMING UP: The Orioles open a three-game series with Boston April 21. Right-hander Dylan Bundy (2-1, 1.86) will face left-hander Drew Pomeranz (1-0, 5.23).