The Baltimore Orioles emerged victorious on Opening Day as Adam Jones hit a walk-off home run in the 11th inning to give the team a 3-2 victory.
How about that Opening Day? As Oriole fans, we know that this team under Buck Showalter is normally good for a few things. One is that the games will be close. Two is that the game isn’t over until it is over. Another is it can never be easy.
Yes, these are generalities. And, I know that there are some on-the-field similarities from one year to the next too. We will get to those in a bit. But, first, some things from Opening Day that are a bit different from normal.
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The Orioles are on pace for 162 stolen bases, after Manny Machado swiped one after a four-pitch walk. Caleb Joseph leads the team in triples and runs batted in after his two-run triple in the seventh. The starting pitching ERA is 0.00 after Dylan Bundy went seven strong innings.
One game in and the Orioles already have a blown save, which for me conjures up images of Mike Gonzalez. Sure, it is a very small sample size. And, these ‘abnormalities’ won’t hold all season long, obviously.
But, there were several items from Opening Day that are the same blueprint the Orioles have followed, win or loss, over the last several years.
Racking up the Strikeouts
No one will accuse the Baltimore Orioles of being patient, but it might not hurt once a while? The Orioles struck out 13 times on Opening Day, including one by every player who played the entire game. In fact, among the starters, only Pedro Alvarez did not strike out.
Jonathan Schoop struck out twice, as did Adam Jones, Craig Gentry and Tim Beckham. Manny Machado may have had just as difficult a feat. He batted five times in the game; one of those was a four-pitch walk. In the other four at-bats combined, Machado saw a total of six pitches.
Of those four at-bats, one was a strikeout which leaves three pitches. Which means, in three of his at-bats, Machado saw exactly one pitch. Of course, he had a double and single in those three at-bats. Max Kepler, in one at-bat in the ninth inning, saw more pitches (12) than Machado saw all game.
Let’s be honest here, not all blame for the Baltimore Orioles’ blown save should go to Brad Brach. Brach dealt with some close calls, and his defense didn’t do him any favors. Chris Davis lost a ball in the lights (which is why you don’t see a lot of games played at 3:05 in Baltimore) and a flare fell in. Nothing was hit hard.
With that said, it still wasn’t a good outing by Brach. However, the rest of the bullpen was quite good. Darren O’Day had a 1-2-3 eighth inning, including a strikeout.
Mychal Givens came in for Brach to finish the ninth, did that and then had a 1-2-3 tenth, which included a play where the former shortstop looked like, well…a shortstop. Richard Bleier pitched the eleventh, and while he allowed a base runner, he had a pretty easy inning as well.
Not a bad start to the season for one of the strengths of the team.
Defense Wins Games
A lot of people don’t think defense matters as much in baseball. Well, you are wrong. A lot of people questioned why Buck Showalter put Craig Gentry into the starting lineup.
Well, you were wrong. The Orioles have emphasized getting defensive this spring, and I think that they will be better this year in that area.
Trey Mancini has a year of experience in the outfield, and is more comfortable. Gentry, Colby Rasmus and Anthony Santander all appear to be improvements over some of the recent right field options for the Baltimore Orioles. The Tim Beckham and Manny Machado swap really seems like it will bring out the best in both players.
Chicks Dig the Long Ball
In fitting Oriole form, the game ended the way so many Oriole games have…
Last year, the Orioles won on Opening Day on a Mark Trumbo walk-off. Look, the Baltimore Orioles are going to score runs. A lot of those runs are going to come via the home run. It is the way this team is built, and it isn’t a bad thing. Runs scored on home runs don’t count any less than ones scored by playing station-to-station.
But, the home run ball is electric when you have a sell-out crowd who is looking for a reason to burst. Cap10 America provided the Baltimore Orioles’ faithful with that moment. The beer was cold in Baltimore on Thursday evening, and if the Orioles can continue to get starting pitching the way that Dylan Bundy did, this team will win games.
The Baltimore Orioles are going to score, they are going to play average to good defense, they are going to get good performances from the bullpen. It all goes back to the starting rotation, another familiar blueprint.
That is the key to the Orioles’ success. Through Game 1, a good start.