As has been debated ad hoc, the big issue surrounding the 2013 Baltimore Orioles is whether or not the successes of the 2012 club were a fluke. If the first regular season game means anything…we still don’t know the answer to that! Granted, the Orioles looked pretty good in their 7-4 win over Tampa. However one of the marks of the 2012 Orioles was their record-setting 29-9 mark in one-run games. Yesterday’s win was not a one-run ballgame, so we still really don’t know if that can be replicated!
Matt Wieters set the tone for the game, and potentially for the season in the first inning. Adam Jones delivered a two-out double, which was followed up by a Wieters two-run homer. (Wieters became the first Oriole to ever homer off of David Price, who MASN analyst Jim Palmer said had at that moment given up two more runs than he was expecting to give up in the game.) While Wieters was the one that hit the home run, Adam Jones ended up being the big story of the day. Jones went 3-for-5 on the day with two RBI, including one big one later in the game. Starter Jason Hammel didn’t fail to disappoint in his first Opening Day assignment. Hammel’s line: 6 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 2 K. One big difference between Hammel and Tampa starter David Price was that Hammel was pitching to contact. Price was trying to strike everyone out, which raised his pitch count fairly high. The real killer was a 12-pitch Matt Wieters at-bat which ultimately resulted in a single.
Hammel was very solid through five innings, giving up just a solo homer. However he started to tire just a bit in the sixth, and Tampa jumped on him to the tune of taking a 3-2 lead. With Tampa taking the lead, that meant that David Price had somehow managed to swoop in and be in line to collect the win. However the issue at that moment really wasn’t the pitching, it was the number of runners the Orioles had left in scoring position (overall in the game the Birds went 3-for-13 with RISP). Hammel would have been cruising if even one other Oriole had connected with a runner at second or third. Hammel only threw 75 pitches through his six innings of work, and I have to wonder if perhaps the lack of experience in big league games during spring training didn’t come into play just a bit. If so, as the season goes on this would in theory cease to be an issue, however as has been discussed several times Buck Showalter held his starters out of major league games in the second half of spring training.
Luckily for Hammel, Brian Roberts‘ and Nick Markakis both singled in the top of the seventh, which brought Adam Jones to the plate with two outs and two on. Both Roberts and Markakis were able to score on Jones’ two-RBI double to the gap, and the Birds seized the lead back (also putting Hammel back in line to be the winner). To further complicate things from Tampa’s perspective, they intentionally walked Matt Wieters bringing Chris Davis to the plate with two out and two on. Davis sent the first pitch deep into the right field grandstand, and suddenly the Orioles led 7-3.
Darren O’Day allowed one run in the eighth inning, however “Dirty” Jim Johnson came in and shut Tampa down in the last of the ninth to give the Orioles and Jason Hammel a 7-4 Opening Day win. Is this a harbinger of things to come for this team? Does this mean that they’re going to cruise through the entire season? Let’s not even address those questions, as we’re talking about one game. Showalter said beforehand that this game counts as much as game 110, however part of why the Orioles were so successful last year is due to their “one game at a time” approach. To say the least, this was a great way for the team to start the regular season, but they also have 161 more times they’re going to have to play this year.
This evening in the lone night game of the series the Orioles will send Wei-Yin Chen to the mound for the first time in 2013; he’ll be opposed by Tampa’s Jeremy Hellickson. One interesting twist yesterday was that Showalter hit Manny Machado second in the order. Whether or not that holds up for the entire season remains to be seen, but the lineup seemed to be very balanced yesterday for sure. For the record, Adam Jones is hitting .321 lifetime against Hellickson with three homers.