It’s three weeks into the baseball season, and the Baltimore Orioles are atop the American League East. Their surprising 11-5 record as of April 24 also makes them best in the entire American League.

Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals on Friday, April 22, 2016, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

It would be a lie to say that experts or fans expected this kind of start heading into the season. But now that everyone has seen what this team is capable of, greater expectations are beginning to grow.

Washington Nationals manager Dusty Baker also has his team out to a fantastic start with a 13-4 record, the best in the bigs as of April 24. But Baker has also noticed the early success of Baltimore and recently told reporters that a World Series between his Nationals and the Orioles is “a strong possibility.” There’s still more than 140 regular season games left before that thought can even be entertained, but that didn’t stop Baker from playing with the idea.

“I was thinking how cool it would be, and I asked somebody what it would be called, and they told me the Beltway Series,” Baker told The Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck. “I was like, ‘OK,’ because people don’t know how cool it was, even though we had the earthquake in ‘89, how great was economically and spiritually for the entire Bay Area.”

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Brad Brach (35) celebrates with center fielder Adam Jones (10) after their baseball game against the Kansas City Royals Saturday, April 23, 2016, in Kansas City, Mo. The Baltimore Orioles won 8-3. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

That’s saying something for the O’s, considering how just a month ago, no one had any thoughts of this team making the playoffs, let alone the World Series. Some doubted whether the Orioles would even finish with a .500 record this season. They were ranked 23rd in ESPN’s MLB power rankings at the end of spring training; now, they’re sitting pretty in sixth place of those same rankings.

Not bad for a team that had a lot of power hitters in its lineup, but lacked consistency in its pitching staff. The key to the Orioles’ success is that they have done a better job pitching so far than anyone expected. But their pitching staff still lacks the star power that makes batters tremble, especially when they face teams like the Nationals. There’s no ace pitcher like Washington’s Max Scherzer in Baltimore’s rotation; there isn’t even a No. 2 starter like the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg.
Still, Baltimore has found a way to get the job done with effective pitching out of the bullpen. The latest example came when relief pitchers Mychal Givens and Brad Brach put the game away for the Orioles in an 8-3 win over the defending champion Kansas City Royals on April 23. Darren O’Day and Zach Britton did the same thing out of the bullpen for Baltimore in a 3-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays on April 21.

The Orioles’ bullpen has been the greatest surprise so far this season. If they keep up the quality play, more surprises could be in store for Baltimore.