Opening Day In Baltimore 4/5 Orioles WIN! 9-5
Written by Mike Laws
Liam Hendriks - RHP (1-8, 5.59 ERA)
Jake Arrieta - RHP (3-9, 6.20 ERA)
Not a moment too soon
Welcome, Baltimore, to the Chris Davis Show
Orioles 9, Twins 5
Yeesh, Chris Davis. I had so much else to talk about, with this team’s performance today — and then you go and do that. And I mean, it’s not like I can start this write-up without talking about you, can I? That would be what’s known in the newspaper industry as burying your lead. It’s heavily frowned upon. There are rules, here — so do you mind maybe sharing the spotlight, just once, so’s I can trot out some new material in this space?
(On second thought, I’ll probably live. You go on hitting .600 and OPSing over 2.000 and I’ll find something else to complain about.)
On to the bullet points!
- OK, let’s get all the other stuff out of the way. We’ll start with the Orioles’ half of the third, in what was then a scoreless ballgame. The Orioles had looked fairly anemic up till this point against Twins starter Liam Hendriks, who looks to be sort of the Aussie version of Miguel Gonzalez: With nothing overpowering, it’s all about hitting spots and changing speeds and all that other good stuff Jim Palmer’s always talking about. Hendriks had retired Ryan Flaherty and Nolan Reimold by way of a groundout and a fly ball to center, respectively, and gone up 0-2 on Nate McLouth. But then McLouth dropped a liner into center, providing His Buckness some speed on the basepaths. Buck gave him the green light; Nate swiped second on the first pitch to Manny Machado, a breaking ball; Manny then smacked the next Hendriks offering, a fastball, into center, plating McLouth. Efficient, right? And, like just about everything else involving the Oriole offense this season, all accomplished with two down. O’s lead, 1-0 …
- … momentarily. The Birds couldn’t deny the Twins a big inning in their half of the fourth. Which was sad, because Oriole starter Jake Arrieta came so close. After yielding a hard-hit double down the line to Josh Willingham and issuing a free pass to Justin Morneau, Arrieta whiffed catcher Ryan Doumit on a sweet changeup thrown low in the zone (and with good late downward movement), and fanned third baseman Trevor Plouffe with some of that good ol’ high heat. It looked for all the world like Arrieta was going to get out of it, but alas, Twins right fielder Chris Parmelee came through with a broken-bat flare into short center to score the Twins’ first run and keep the inning alive. Heartbreaker, that. To make matters worse, this was followed up by little Chris Dozier, the Twinkies’ number-eight hitter, slapping a hanging slider into right-center, over Markakis’s head and out of his reach, good for two RBIs and a stand-up triple. And then Eduardo Escobar — yup, the shortstop and number-nine hitter — took an Arrieta curveball up the middle, bringing Dozier in for the fourth Minnesota run. Yikes.
- Hard luck, for sure, but the Orioles looked poised to pull their usual you-score-on-us, we’ll-score-right-back routine. Adam Jones stayed back on an 0-2 curveball, sending it into right for a base hit. Davis did the same, except to left. Matt Wieters walked on four pitches. Bases full of Birds, e’erbody. And still nobody out. And they caught a break: J.J. Hardy’s bouncer into the hole between third and short gave Escobar only one play, at third — and Plouffe, who’d come off the bag, had trouble finding it again, and couldn’t slap a tag on Davis in time to record an out. The rare failed-fielder’s-choice. Jones scored. Bases full of Birds, again, and still no one out. Ohhhh, this is gonna be a monster inning, right? Well … no. One of the team’s uglier tendencies, and one I’ve touched on before, reared its ugly head, at this point, with no subsequent hitter able to punish the reeling Twins. Flaherty struck out looking. Reimold popped up foul to Morneau. McLouth lifted a lazy fly behind second. After four, it was Twins 4, Orioles 2. Shucks.
- But you know these Orioles ain’t going away. Following a nice eight-pitch bounce-back inning from Arrieta, and despite having started their half of the fifth with a Machado fly-out to left, the O’s would come back to tie things up. Nick Markakis singled, followed by a terrific at-bat from Jones, who spoiled several Hendriks offerings foul and refused to bite on that old Achilles’-heel pitch, the breaking ball low and away. Having worked the count full, he absolutely smoked a fastball into dead center — where Minnesota’s Aaron Hicks attempted to fake Markakis out, acting as though he had the ball when it was clearly going to sail over his head. Which it did, bouncing up against the base of the wall. Markakis, who’d had to hold at second until verifying that Jones’s scorcher got down, charged home; the throw beat him but couldn’t be handled by Doumit, and squeaked through to the wall behind home plate, permitting Jones to take third. Which is significant, because Davis was up next, and appears to have no problem, at present, powering baseballs into the outfield. His sac-fly to center plated Jones, and we were all knotted at 4.
- It wouldn’t stay that way for long. Arrieta would face only two more Twins hitters, issuing a walk and a single, before being given the hook. It was an odd day for Arrieta, who was missing Wieters’s targets left and right, but whose fastball had had enough movement and curveball enough sharp bite to keep him out of trouble — until that nightmare fourth, anyway. But — even in that bounce-back fifth — his fastball appeared to lose some bite the longer the game wore on, topping out in the high 80s, rather than the 93-95 mph he’d boasted earlier on. On came Troy Patton, who got Parmelee to fly out but couldn’t solve Dozier, who dropped an RBI single into right-center. Twins up again, 5-4.
- And then things got real, real quiet for a couple frames. Happily, with respect to the Orioles bullpen, this meant good stuff from Patton — who struck out Joe Mauer, never a simple proposition, on just a filthy slider — and Luis Ayala, who flirted with trouble but gamely worked his way to an inning and two-thirds of scoreless ball. Thing was, the same went for Minnesota relievers Ryan Pressly, Brian Duensing and Casey Fien, who ushered Oriole batsmen quietly into the game’s final frames.
- And then a funny thing happened. The Orioles actually played some great situational ball — with, of course, a Showalter twist. After Reimold muscled an 0-2 pitch from Fien off the end of the bat and into the hole between short and third, Showalter did not ask Nate McLouth to bunt. The (non)strategy paid off in kind, with a locked-in McLouth again ripping a shot into center, giving the O’s two men on and none out. Now Buck went with the bunt. Machado obliged. Not one to be outdone, managerially, the Twins’ Ron Gardenhire opted to walk Markakis — which looked like some smart strategery, as Jones fell into a hole at 1-and-2 (and looked to be falling into some old habits, chasing breaking pitches low and away), but then Jones pulled a ball off the end of the bat with just enough starch on it to see it past Escobar and into left, scoring one …
- … and is it possible that the Orioles held McLouth at third strictly to set the stage for Davis? Did they just feel it, or something, in this 2013 home opener? Because a three-run homer, let’s face it, is just not as fun-for-the-whole-family as the Grand Salami. Whatever the case, Davis didn’t wait long to send the crowd into a Harlem Shakin’ frenzy, tagging the very first fastball from lefty Tyler Robertson — not even a bad pitch, really; might even have been off the plate outside — for yet another opposite-field home run, into the left field bleachers. 9-5, Orioles, and that would hold up for your happy, happy home-opening final.
MAYBE SLIGHTLY OFF-TOPIC BUT JUST GRANT ME THIS INDULGENCE: Do you know how hard it is to force your fingers to type Hendriks, like that, I-K-S? Why would anyone ever have spelled it that way? I understand the guy’s Australian, but here, in this country, we know the only acceptable spellings are the two ways James Marshall Hendricks/Jimi Hendrix did it. Really, the nerve.
OH YEAH AND I GUESS I OUGHT TO ADD THAT: Pedro Strop worked the ninth. He looked fine.
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