A more than potent lineup has mostly lived up to expectations and rescued some uneven pitching performances, leaving the Baltimore Orioles 3-3 after their first six games.
Mostly? Well, that happened the first four games, when Chris Davis was breaking ever power-hitting record in sight. His grand slam in the 8th inning of Friday’s home opener gave the Orioles the win and made it seem as though neither he nor the team could do any wrong. Taking another look at that thrilling, 9-5 win, ineffectiveness by the infamously hot-and-cold Jake Arrieta after the first inning helped set the stage for the heroics.
It was a festive home opener by anyone’s standards, classy and appropriate, with the team honoring the late Earl Weaver by putting a ball on the mound instead of having a first-ball ceremony. Just as surprising as not having a member of Weaver’s family throw out the first ball was the fact that the Orioles did not recognize or honor any Ravens team members in any way.
A Ravens spokesman said several players were invited but declined due to scheduling conflicts and would try to reschedule for later in the season, The Sun reported. The Sun said Orioles spokesman Greg Bader declined comment but said the Orioles wanted to incorporate the Ravens in some way.
Saturday it was Chris Tillman‘s turn to be on the rocks, giving up a run in the second and four in the third before giving way to a promising, 3 1/3-inning relief job by Rule 5 pick T.J. McFarland. Adam Jones‘ 2-run, bases-loaded single tied it in the fifth, but the Orioles could do nothing more against the Twins. Jim Johnson came on in the 9th and succeeded in proving human, as did Davis, who let an Aaron Hicks grounder go through his legs with one out. A walk followed, and then the go-ahead hit.
As bombastic as the Oriole bats had been until that game, they couldn’t bail out a second straight shaky pitching performance.
But as if shaky pitching weren’t enough, the Orioles added shaky defense to the mix yesterday. A combination of a tough sun and miscommunication between Jones and Nolan Reimold led to a fly ball falling untouched in left-center field and letting in two runs. The Orioles still led, 3-2, at that point behind Jason Hammel, but that turned out to be the game. Hammel, who walked three, hit two batters and was charged with four runs in 6 2/3, allowed for the sun. Jones owned up in postgame remarks reported by MASNSports.com‘s Steve Melewski.
Discouragement came in several other forms. In the third inning, a Jones fly ball dropped in right-center when center fielder Hicks slipped and fell. But Jones only wound up on second base, costing himself a base. In the eighth, Jones tapped a check-swing bouncer just past the pitcher but jogged all the way to first base and was thrown out. In the ninth, Alexi Casilla blooped a soft liner to second base, thought he’d popped it foul when the sun blinded him, and failed to run it out.
That was supported by Buck Showalter‘s postgame remarks, but it seems as though it only goes so far as a reason. You then have 90 feet in which to recover, realize it’s about to be fielded by the second baseman, and start running.
Equally hard to explain was Jones’ jog to first in the eighth. He was his own worst critic and acknowledged he carried frustration from the field to his at-bat. A relatively testy exchange during the televised postgame interview featured a reporter approaching the topic, but Showalter not addressing the 8th-inning incident, instead referring to the fly ball lost in the sun, and defending Jones as “one of the best in the game at it, so I’m not going there at all.”
Although a number of contributors to online message boards were not such a willing audience for these explanations, leaving comments that almost had steam coming out of their ears, there isn’t much anyone can do much except move on. The 3-3 Orioles open a 3-game series in Fenway Park today, marking the third home opener they’ve at least been present for (including Tampa Bay last Tuesday) in the first six days of the season.