Baltimore Orioles: Power and pitching rule on Tillman Island


From game 1 to game 162, baseball begins and ends with starting pitching. The good news for the Baltimore Orioles is that their ace, Chris Tillman, answered the call yesterday as the O’s defeated Tampa 6-2 on Opening Day. It can be hard pitching the opener given the pressure to start fast out of the gate. In last year’s opener Tillman struggled a bit with command and nerves, although the Orioles managed to win. But as he told Roch Kubatko of MASNsports after the game, this year was different:

"It was much easier today. You’re always going to have the nerves on opening day, but it was nothing like last year. I was able to keep it under control, starting in the bullpen and coming into the game. I was happy with it."

Tillman’s line: 6.2 I, 4 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 4 K. The O’s jumped on top early by playing the role of opportunists. Alejandro De Aza hit a dribbler up the first base line out of the lead off spot – a ball that appeared destined to be an out. However Tampa pitcher Chris Archer threw the ball high to first and into right field, allowing De Aza to reach on an error. A walk, a sac fly (to move De Aza to third), and a Travis Snider RBI-single later, and the O’s had an early 1-0 lead in the first inning on Opening Day.

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That was obviously an unearned run, however in the fifth inning De Aza would tack on one that was earned, by way of a two-run homer. An inning later Steve Pearcee would add a solo shot of his own, and the O’s had a 4-0 lead as we went into the later innings. However not to be outdone, Tampa’s Evan Longoria got his team on the board with a solo homer in the seventh, cutting the lead to 4-1.

In the eighth Snider, who had one heck of a first game with the Orioles, smacked a double to right field. Steve Pearce came around third to score, however he appeared to be dead in the water at home plate. However Tampa right fielder Steven Souza’s throw was a bit high, and Pearce had the foresight to slide. Speaking for myself, it caught me off guard at first. Rivera, the Tampa catcher, was literally waiting at home plate with the ball well before Pearce arrived. If anything, it would have made more sense for Pearce to just accept a token soft tag and walk back to the dugout, right?

Probably. However as I said, the throw was high. Pearce attempted to slide under the tag, and at first it appeared that he was unsuccessful because he was called out. Buck Showalter challeneged the play from the dugout, and in fact replays were fairly conclusive to the effect that Pearce’s foot had crossed home plate prior to the tag. The call was reversed and the O’s had a 5-1 lead.

Tampa’s Astrubal Cabrera would add an RBI-double in the eighth, however Ryan Flaherty would insert his name into the homer parade with a solo shot of his own in the ninth inning to close out the Orioles’ 6-2 victory on Opening Day. It got a little hairy in the last of the eighth when Tommy Hunter allowed the aforementioned RBI-double, as that gave Tampa two runners in scoring position. However Hunter induced a pop up with two outs by Longoria, and the O’s ended the threat. Zach Britton also retired Tampa 1-2-3 in the ninth – in a non-save situation.

The Orioles got some great efforts yesterday out of guys who were in theory replacing departed players. De Aza, Pearce, and Flaherty all homered, and Snider was responsible for the Orioles’ first run of the game and of the season with an RBI-single. That’s exactly the type of production that the Orioles are going to need up and down the lineup in order to repeat as AL East champions.

Snider also showed us that he can be an asset in right field, gunning down a would-be run at home plate in the fifth. With two outs, James Loney tried to score from second on Logan Forsythe’s single to right field. However Snider came up throwing, and with ice water in his veins relayed the ball to catcher Caleb Joseph and gunned down Loney.

Incidentally, Tampa challenged the play under the premise that Joseph blocked the plate before the ball arrived. However the umpires upheld the call, as replays showed that there was in fact a clear path to the plate for the runner. So if you’re keeping score at home, the O’s are 1-0 in challenges this year, and opponents are 0-1. Last season you might remember that the Orioles had a long drought on challenges early in the season – for whatever any of that is worth.

Again, this is only game 1 out of 162 – but it’s always nice to get off to a good start. The Orioles will make a roster move prior to game two this evening, as Chris Davis’ suspension is officially now complete. While nothing is set in stone until it’s done, word on the street is that Steve Clevenger will be optioned to Norfolk to make room for Davis on the roster. If you think about it, the timing really worked out great for the Orioles. As opposed to returning in the post season last year after having sat for a month-and-a-half, Davis now returns after sitting one game…but in the wake of spring training. He should be ready to rock.

The Orioles and Tampa will continue their series this evening as Wei-Yin Chen heads to the mound for the O’s in game two. He’ll be opposed by Nathan Karns, with game time set for just after 7 PM.

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