Written by Chris Slade
The yard was packed to a sellout crowd as Chris Tillman and Jon Lester took the mound for the Orioles and Red Sox respectively.
The game began with a 92 mph strike from Tillman at 3:14 p.m and he looked sharp in the first striking out both David Ortiz and Mike Napoli on 95 mph heaters. Nelson Cruz walked in his first Oriole PA in the 2nd inning and Matt Wieters followed that up with a single. Delmon Young drove in the first run of the 2014 season on an double play that scored Cruz from third. Grady Sizemore (yea, he's back apparently) tied things up in the 4th with a solo home run off the top of the left field porch.
The game remained at a stalemate until the bottom of the 7th inning when Cruz made a great first impression with the fans by launching a no doubter solo home run into the left field seats to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead. The bullpen held onto the lead and Tommy Hunter made his 9th inning debut, notching the save after putting two runners on, by punching out Jackie Bradley, Jr. to end the game.
Chris Tillman looked great in the first, aside from a nice piece of opposite field hitting from Dustin Pedroia on an outside curveball. He sat down Ortiz on a 1-2 count on a weel spotted low and away 95 mph fastball. He then proceeded to end the inning with a swinging strike three from Mike Napoli on a high 95 mph heater. From the 2nd inning on, the adrenaline must have wore off, and one could tell Tillman didn't quite have his "A stuff" today.
He put runners on in each inning but aside from the Sizemore home run in the 4th, did an outstanding job of working out of jams. For example, after Ortiz singled in the 3rd and Napoli followed up with a double that would have scored anyone but Ortiz, Tillman bared down and got the final out of the inning on a dandy 12-6 curve that started belt high and finished in the dirt with a swinging miss from Mike Carp. Tillman continued to live dangerously like the Dos Equis man in the 5th, inducing two long flyball outs to Pedroia and Ortiz that may have left the yard on a hot day in July. With his pitch count over 100, Tillman exited the game after five innings.
Final Line: 5 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, ND
Zach Britton tooke over for Tillman and pitch the 6th and 7th innings. Britton lieved up to the hyp he generated this Spring, showing great command of a 92-95 mph sinker. The pitch had plus movement and induced five groundball outs.
Buck interestingly decided to use Evan Meek in the 8th inning. Everything Meek threw had great movement but he struggled to throw strike with his 90-92 mph cutter, which led to two walks. He managed to get two outs before Brian Matusz was brought on to retire A.J Pierzynski.
As anticipated, Tommy Hunter entered the 9th in a save situation. He made things interesting by plunking the first batter (and arch nemesis) Will Middlebrooks and then allowing a single to Pedroia. Never-the-less, he was able to get Ortiz to fly out and strike out Bradley, Jr. to finish off the win.
Jon Lester threw a solid game today (7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 8 K) and the Orioles were not able to get much going on offense.
Nelson Cruz obviously had the big day with the game tying homer in the 7th.
Adam Jones recorded the lone two-hot game of the afternoon with a leadoff single in the 4th andanother single in the bottom of the 6th, after which Davis struck out to end the inning.
Lester had Chris Davis's number today as Davis went 0-for-3 with two ugly looking swinging strike threes. Not surprising, as Davis batted just .235/.289/.475 versus lefthanders in 2013.
Rookie second baseman Jonathan Schoop lined a single into left field past the diving Xander Bogaerts in the 3rd inning for his first his of the season.
Who says Nelson Cruz isn't a good defender? Big Nelly made a nice running catch near the warning track on a ball smoke off the bat of Bogaerts in the 2nd inning.
Ryan Flaherty made a pair of outstanding plays at third in the 6th inning including a barehanded grab on the run on a chopper hit by Pierzynski, firing a strike to first.
Evan Meek made a nice save on a groundball carumed off the glove of Davis in the 8th, fielding the ball while on the grounding and managing an accurate throw over to first in time to beat Carp.
Neither team recorded an error in the field today.
Other Notes/ Musings
This marks the 23rd consecutive home opener sellout for the Orioles as 46,685 fans packed the yard.
Big Nelly Cruz is now 11-for-24 with 3 home runs in his career versus Lester.
The Orioles have now won 12 of their last 14 home openers.
Up next: Off day tommorrow followed by the beginning of the #Ubaldimore era on Wednesday at 7 ET
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