Make no mistake about the fact that the 9-5 score in the Baltimore Orioles’ win over Minnesota was in no way indicative of how close the game really was. This was anyone’s game, and quite frankly one might be inclined to say that Minnesota’s bullpen actually pulled defeat from the jaws of victory. Over the years we’ve seen the Orioles do that on numerous occasions, and now the scales appear to be tipping back in the other direction. As much as Minnesota may have been in the game however, Chris Davis quickly closed the door on their hopes for victory with his fourth home run in as many games. This time, it was a grand slam the opposite way that broke a 5-5 tie and gave the Orioles a win in their home opener at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. With the home run, Davis became the fourth player in MLB history to homer in the first four games of a season (Willie Mays, Mark McGwire, and Nelson Cruz).
Before the game even started it was an emotional day at the yard as the Orioles honored the late Earl Weaver. The Birds had been fairly tight-lipped about what they would do to honor Weaver (short of the patch on the jerseys), however it turned out that in lieu of a first pitch the Orioles simply left a lone ball on the pitching rubber as MASN’s Jim Hunter announced that “the tribute is on the mound.” That’s thinking outside the box; whereby most people would have expected someone from Weaver’s family to throw out the first ball, the Orioles opted not to have a first pitch ceremony.
We saw both sides of Jake Arrieta yesterday; he had some command issues, but at times he also looked very good. In effect, he had a poor fourth inning where he gave up four runs as Minnesota took a 4-1 lead. Minnesota starter Liam Hendriks stymied the Birds…for awhile. As Hendriks began to tire the Orioles prepared to pounce. The O’s put one run across in the last of the fourth to cut the deficet to 4-2, but then Nick Markakis was able to score on Adam Jones‘ RBI-double in the fifth. Jones would advance to third on an error, and then score on Chris Davis’ sac fly-RBI to tie the game. However Minnesota would then come back in the top of the sixth and take a 5-4 lead on Dozier’s RBI-single. Somehow, it seems that the Orioles’ play ’till the final out attitude has rubbed off on other teams.
As the game moved into the last of the eighth the Fighting Showalters still had one ace up their sleeve: the heart of the order would still get to come to the plate for one last turn before the game ended. Nick Markakis was IBB’d following Manny Machado‘s sacrifice of Nolan Reimold and Nate McLouth into scoring position to load the bases. Adam Jones managed to come through in the clutch once again with an RBI-single to tie the game at five, which brought Davis to the plate for what ended up being his grand slam to win the game. Obviously at some point we’ll get to a game where Davis won’t homer, however it’s tough to argue that he isn’t having a solid start to the season. I think that the most impressive aspect of the four homers in as many games is that he’s using the entire field. The grand slam yesterday and one of his homers in Tampa were to left field, which shows that he has the potential of being a complete hitter.
As for Jake Arrieta, as I said he had his struggles but he also had some good moments. Arrieta’s line: 5 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 5 K. Four of those five runs came in the fourth when he really struggled, however in the other innings he was pretty solid. Aside from the fourth inning, I noticed that his off speed pitches were hitting their marks and fooling hitters fairly well. Aside from Miguel Gonzalez on Thursday, Oriole starters haven’t been able to go very deep into games, which is concerning but not overly concerning. Part of Showalter’s plan might well be to ease guys into the season, and perhaps even keeping them on pitch counts similar to spring training.
It’ll be interesting to see what the Orioles do in anticipation for tonight’s game when they’ll need to make a roster move so as to call Chris Tillman up so he can make the start. This won’t be the first roster move of the season, as Brian Roberts was sent to the 15-day DL yesterday with a rupture in his hamstring (he’ll be out 2-3 weeks). The O’s recalled Yamaico Navarro from the minors in a corresponding roster move. However do they give up on Arrieta after yesterday’s game right away? My vote would be no, as I have a feeling that Showalter and Dan Duquette already have a plan that will be revealed later today. I expect that Tillman will be formally called up around 6:45 this evening at which time we’ll hear which reliever (presumably) is being sent down. It could be Tommy Hunter, or perhaps even T.J. McFarland, who would then have to be offered back to the Cleveland Indians.
Tillman experienced some abdominal pain during spring training, and officially was sent to the DL as a precaution. However I have a feeling that he was sent there more so that the Orioles could play a few roster games early in the season. Tillman will be taxed with keeping the momentum going from yesterday’s game and getting the Orioles on their first winning streak of 2013. He’ll be opposed by Minnesota’s Vance Worley.