Written by Paul Folkemer
On a day in which nobody in the greater Baltimore area was paying a bit of attention to them, the Orioles lost yet again to the Blue Jays, 6-5. The Birds yet again squandered a late lead, with Tommy Hunter frittering away a two-run edge in the seventh on a pair of homeruns, including a game-tying blast by ex-Orioles-pitcher-turned-Jays-outfielder Adam Loewen. The Jays took the lead later in the seventh and rode to the victory, finishing the season series 12-6 against the O’s. The Jays won all six series of the year two games to one.
Today, of course, was the kickoff of the 2011 NFL season, and the Ravens’ season opener-- against the hated Pittsburgh Steelers, no less-- began at exactly the same time as the Orioles’ finale in Toronto at 1 PM. So as you can imagine, absolutely no Baltimore sports fans were watching the Orioles this afternoon. The Ravens are clearly the #1 pro team in Baltimore-- and deservedly so. They’re a top-notch, well-run organization of perennial winners, as opposed to the annual embarrassment that is the Orioles.
But I can’t help but feel a little bit bad for the Orioles, who will be all but ignored in this town as they play out the string in the final month of the season. So I promise that I’ll give the O’s my full attention today rather than succumbing to Ravens fever like everyone else.
Let’s get started. The O’s were facing Blue Jays right-hander Dustin McGowan, who was making his first major-league start since 2008 after coming back from Tommy John surgery. The O’s took a quick lead on McGowan in the top of the first when Matt Angle drew a leadoff walk and eventually scored on a Vladimir Guerrero sac fly. But Orioles starter Tommy Hunter couldn’t hold the lead in the bottom half, with a Mark Reynolds error and a single setting up Jose Bautista’s RBI single and Brett Lawrie’s go-ahead, run-scoring grounder.
WHOA! Joe Flacco to Anquan Boldin for a touchdown, less than two minutes into the game! That’s the way to get started! ...Oh, whoops. Sorry. No Ravens talk. I promised.
In the second, the O’s tied the game on an Angle bases-loaded single, but they left the sacks packed with one out when J.J. Hardy flied out and Nick Markakis grounded to short. That’s a wasted scoring opportunity. But you know who didn’t waste a scoring opportunity? The Ravens! They recovered a Steelers fumble on the 44 and Ray Rice ran in a touchdown three plays later.
Oh, right, the Orioles game. Um...Adam Lind had an RBI single in the third to make it 3-2 Blue Jays. Yeah, that’s interesting and all, but LOOK AT THIS!! The Steelers opened the second quarter with a touchdown, but then the Ravens forced them into a three-and-out and started a 12-play, 95-yard drive that took more than five minutes off the clock and ended with a Flacco touchdown pass to Rice. 21-7 Ravens at halftime! Man, this is nice.
The halftime break gives me a chance to flip back to the Orioles. McGowan got knocked out in the fourth inning, and Markakis roped a two-run single to give the Orioles a 4-3 lead. Yeah, I’m sure that’ll hold. But at least Hunter seems to be pitching pretty well, and...
Ravens time again! AHAHA, the Steelers fumbled the ball on their very first offensive play of the second half! And then on the next play, Flacco threaded the needle to deliver a great pass into the end zone, expertly caught by Ed Dickson. And then, to rub it in the Steelers’ faces, the Ravens didn’t just kick an extra point-- holder Sam Koch took the snap and just rushed it into the end zone beyond the oblivious and unprepared Pittsburgh defense for a two-point conversion.
Could this get any better? Yes!!! The Steelers, immediately after getting the ball back, turned it over again when Haloti Ngata swallowed up quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Ray Lewis picked him off. Pittsburgh’s first two offensive plays in the second half were both turnovers. Also, the Orioles scored a run in the sixth on a Matt Wieters RBI groundout or something like that.
The Steelers actually managed to string together an eight-play drive the next time they get the ball...but, just 18 yards shy of the end zone, Roethlisberger threw another interception directly into the arms of Ed Reed. This is amazing! The sellout crowd at M&T Bank Stadium is rocking!
In stark contrast, there are the Orioles. They blew their 5-3 lead in the seventh when Hunter coughed up solo homeruns to David Cooper (just the second of his big-league career) and Adam Loewen, the ex-Orioles pitcher-turned-outfielder who angered the team by reneging on a handshake deal and bolting to the Blue Jays three years ago. Somehow you just knew this guy was going to come back to burn the Orioles at some point. This was his first big-league homer.
Jose Bautista hit a sac fly off Willie Eyre in the seventh to give the Jays a 6-5 lead, but who even cares anymore? Let’s go Ravens! They turned Reed’s interception into a Billy Cundiff field goal, taking a commanding 32-7 lead into the fourth quarter. Not only were the Ravens winning against their arch-nemeses, but they were flat-out humiliating them. Absolutely wonderful to see such an epic beatdown of a team that has given the Ravens all sorts of trouble in past seasons. The best part was seeing the dopey dirtbag Roethlisberger get completely flummoxed and embarrassed, as he was picked off for the third time in the fourth quarter, with Reed doing the honors again.
The Steelers’ five turnovers were awful...but what do you say we make it seven?? Their next two possessions both ended with fumbles recovered by the Ravens (the first by Lewis, the second by Cory Redding), and Cundiff added another field goal to make it a 35-7 game.
And that’s how it ended, as the clock ticked away to 0:00 in front of an ecstatic sellout crowd of 71,434 exuberant Baltimore sports fans, basking in the glory of having a successful, top-notch, winning ballclub to cheer for.
Meanwhile, the Orioles lost, 6-5, falling to 58-87 on the season.
MLB.com Box Score
Questions? Comments? Send me an E-mail.
Visit the Orioles Hangout Message Board