Orioles try to keep opening win in perspective
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – They would have preferred to open at home with 46,000 howling fans, hungry for a repeat of last year. Instead, the Orioles opened their season at sterile Tropicana Field with an intense game that they finally broke open.
After wasting scoring opportunities against reigning American League Cy Young winner David Price, the Orioles exploded for five runs in the seventh and won the opener 7-4 over the Tampa Bay Rays before 34,078 at Tropicana Field on Tuesday.
“It felt amazing. It felt like a playoff game to me,” Jason Hammel said.
“You get that hyped.”
Hammel left the game after six innings, feeling he didn’t pitch very well at all, and watched with joy as the Orioles (1-0) rescued him.
“I was pretty bad today,” Hammel said. He got away with several mistakes, he said.
While Hammel was unhappy with his performance, the Orioles were unhappy with their at-bats. Through the first six innings, they were just 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
Matt Wieters’ first-inning two-run home run off David Price gave them a 2-0 lead. Their most egregious mistakes were wasting leadoff doubles by J.J. Hardy in the fourth and Wieters in the sixth.
“We put ourselves in a lot of opportunities. We just didn't get the hit. We look at the bright side. We're getting all these opportunities, we're going to get a hit eventually,” Adam Jones said.
Price allowed two runs and seven hits in six and didn’t seem his usual commanding self, but the 20-game winner escaped.
“We were facing a guy who was pretty good. I think we made him work today. We saw a lot of pitches early on,” Chris Davis said.
“I think that helped us later in the game to see as many pitches as we did. We were able to hang in there.”
After Price departed, Jake McGee was within a strike of protecting that lead, but Jones delivered in the seventh, and so did Davis.
Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis led off the seventh with singles against McGee (0-1), and after Manny Machado struck out on three pitches, Jones was down 0-2. Jones drilled the pitch to left-center to score Roberts and Markakis to give the Orioles a 4-3 lead. Wieters was walked intentionally, and Davis crushed McGee’s pitch to right field, and it was 7-3.
“I’m pretty sure they looked at who was on deck when they did it, so you can’t blame them for playing the matchups right there. McGee’s got a great arm. He throws hard. I was able to get him early obviously. I think after throwing four balls right there I thought that he was going to try to get ahead with a strike and I just tried to get the barrel to it and he supplied the rest,” Davis said.
Jones was 3-for-5 with two doubles. Wieters had a double and home run. Nolan Reimold and Brian Roberts each had two hits. Everyone in the lineup had a hit except for designated hitter Steve Pearce.
Symbolically it was a happy day with Roberts returning after missing almost all of the last two years with injuries and Reimold back after not playing since April.
It’s a whole new team for Roberts, who was the leader for this team during the lost years.
“You’re gonna win more games when there’d a lot of good players on your team. So it’s I guess the culmination of a lot of years of this organization trying to get to this point. And our lineup is really good up and down. We all just need to understand what our roles are,” Roberts said.
Hammel (1-0) was economical through six. He allowed Ben Zobrist’s home run with one out in the fourth, and two runs in the sixth on an RBI double by Desmond Jennings and a scoring fly by all by Zobrist.
In his six innings, Hammel allowed three runs on three hits, He walked one and struck out two.
“I can’t really take too much credit today,” Hammel said.
In the first inning, Jones singled with two outs, and on the second pitch, Wieters slammed a ball over the wall in left-center field for a 2-0 lead.
All day, Price battled the Orioles. In his next at-bat, Wieters worked out a 13-pitch walk, the longest at-bat of his career.
“Just trying to get a pitch I could put in play hard and he kept making pitch after pitch. It was kind of who was going to win the battle,” Wieters said.
Manager Buck Showalter attempted the put the opener in perspective.
“The season wouldn't have ended if we lost today and it won't end if we lose tomorrow or if we win,” he said.