BALTIMORE –- Opening day is always a day of celebration in Baltimore. Monday was not only a day of celebration, but one of raw emotion, too.
There were new Orioles in the forefront and some in new roles. One of the biggest additions had the biggest hit. Nelson Cruz hit a seventh inning home run to give the Orioles a 2-1 win over the Boston Red Sox 2-1 before a sellout opening day crowd of 46,685 at Oriole Park.
Cruz hit Jon Lester’s first pitch in the seventh over the left field wall, and the Orioles (1-0) had a 2-1 lead.
“You try to dream about a good start. I think the dream came true,” Cruz said.
He made a nice catch in the third inning and scored the first run in the second when Delmon Young hit into a double play.
His fun day began during the introductions. The crowd was already pumped up, cheering Adam Jones and Chris Davis, and then came the cry of “Cruuuuuuuu-zzzz.”
“It was really neat, it was special. Like I said before, I think I made the right call to come and be part of this organization, be part of this town. Hopefully now I can do some other stuff to contribute for the team,” Cruz said.
The emotional day was keyed as Buck Showalter jogged onto the field and stirred the crowd by waving his cap.
“I just got a haircut yesterday. I’m proud of what hair is left,” he joked.
He enjoyed the fans’ reaction and insisted he hadn’t planned the swooping wave.
“You feed off their emotions. The players felt it, too. It’s kind of a thank you more than anything else,” Showalter said.
Showalter’s wife, Angela hosted the family of the late team public relations director, Monica Barlow for the game, and he was moved with a video tribute to her.
After the ceremonies, Chris Tillman had a tough time as he worked his way through five innings, allowing one run on seven hits. He walked one and struck out four.
“It was a battle the whole way through. Wasn’t just one inning. It was a battle the whole way through,” Tillman said.
He allowed a home run to Grady Sizemore leading off the fourth as Boston (0-1) tied the game at 1. It was Sizemore’s first home run since July 15, 2011.
After he left, Zach Britton (1-0), in his new incarnation as a reliever, pitched two scoreless innings to pick up the win.
“It’s nice to get out of there the first day and get that over with and just kind of fall into a routine. The adrenaline was pumping. Definitely, had some nervous energy,” Britton said.
The Orioles scored a run in the second off Lester (0-1) when Cruz walked to lead off. He moved to third on Matt Wieters’ single and scored when Delmon Young grounded into a double play.
Evan Meek made his Orioles debut in the eighth, walking two. With two outs, Brian Matusz retired Xander Bogaerts on a ground ball to the mound.
Tommy Hunter hit Will Middlebrooks to lead off the ninth, and with one out, Dustin Pedroia singled. David Ortiz flied to left and Jackie Bradley, Jr. struck out, and Hunter had his first save as the Orioles newly minted closer.
“You've got to earn everything you get. One-run game to start the season off against the defending world champs, here we are,” Hunter said.
Before the game, Showalter made it official. Hunter will be his closer.
“I'd like to say they'll get easier, but they won't. One-run leads in the American League East home or away are hard to finish. You know you're going to get everybody's best shot,” Showalter said.
NOTES: The Orioles are off on Tuesday. Ubaldo Jimenez makes his Orioles debut on Wednesday night against Boston’s John Lackey.
-Each of the 23 opening days at Oriole Park have been sellouts. The Orioles have won 11 of their past 14, including the last four. Showalter is now 4-0 in Orioles’ openers.
-The Red Sox will visit the White House on Tuesday and be recognized for their World Series victory.
-Nick Markakis, whose participation was doubtful because of a stiff neck, played in his eighth straight opener. Only Paul Blair has started more Orioles openers in the outfield.
-Jonathan Schoop became the youngest Orioles rookie to start an opener since Cal Ripken in 1982.
-The Orioles have won five straight one-run games against the Red Sox. They’re 25-13 against Boston since 2012.
-Young became the 12th different designated hitter to start on opening day in as many years. The Orioles haven’t had a DH start back-to-back years since Harold Baines started three straight from 1993-5.