Let the record show that well after the party had stopped, the celebration was over, and the beer stopped flowing, it was Adam Jones who won the game for the Baltimore Orioles. In an Opening Day game that didn’t need to go extra innings but did, Jones smacked the first pitch he saw in the last of the 11th way out of Camden Yards and into the grandstand, sending the city of Baltimore into a frenzy. However let us not forget that everything’s a team effort. And this victory certainly was.
Dylan Bundy gave the Birds one of their best Opening Day starts in recent memory, and very much deserved to be the victor in this game. Bundy’s line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K. Bundy was as good as good can be, letting nary a runner past second base. For a team who’s starting pitching has been maligned throughout the off season and spring training, this was as dominant a performance as you’re going to see.
Unfortunately for the Orioles however, Minnesota’s pitching and defense matched them point-for-point. In a game like this, it’s really a matter of who blinks first. And in two of the three moments of consequence in the game, Minnesota blinked before the Birds. But it took us awhile to get there.
For the record, Minnesota almost took the lead in the second inning, however Rosario was flat out robbed by Craig Gentry in right field. When I say robbed, I mean the ball was over the wall and Gentry brought it back into the ballpark. So there’s the league’s first web gem of the year. And in what ended up being a one-run game, that was a huge play.
Trey Mancini struck out to lead off the seventh, however he reached on a wild pitch. He would later reach second on a second wild pitch, prompting Minnesota to walk Valencia (who came up as a pinch-hitter). Following a Gentry strikeout, Caleb Joseph came to the plate. And he finally broke the 0-0 tie with a two-RBI triple. How often does a catcher smack a stand-up triple?! But it was perfectly placed, splitting the outfielders on a ball that went all the way to the wall.
The Birds brought Brad Brach into the game in the ninth to close it out. However keep in mind; Minnesota is a small-ball team. They’re perfectly happy getting one run here and there. And they look for the smallest opening to do it – in this case, it was Davis bobbling a grounder at first and allowing a base runner to reach. A couple of walks (one of which came on a very questionable ball four call in a full count after a twelve-pitch at-bat) later, the bases were loaded.
And these guys’ specialty is softly hit balls that end up doing a lot of damage. So with the bases loaded, Grossman’s blooper fell into very shallow center field, making it a two-RBI single – tying the game at two. So…does this mean Brach as the closer should be reconsidered? That certainly wasn’t the result he wanted. But he was also unlucky.
Perhaps the O’s slipped up a bit in that ninth inning. However as I said, in two of the three moments of consequence in that game, Minnesota blinked first. When you go to extra innings and the home team is at bat, the game’s always on the line. And that strikes fear into any team when you have a guy leading off an inning who’s been as clutch as Adam Jones has throughout his career in Baltimore – even a team like Minnesota, who plays a frustrating form of small ball.
All you need is one run in that situation. And no better way to get it for any club than on a homer. But that’s especially true of this power-hitting Orioles team, who lives by the long ball. Why rely on softly hit wackadoodle-type balls when you can just hit the ball over the fence?!
And that’s what Jones did, and on the first pitch at that. He saw a fastball that was right down broadway, and he jumped on it. For most of his career Jones has been just a clutch player. But on his 11th Opening Day as an Oriole, perhaps that was personified in truth. And it was obvious that it meant a lot to Jones (quote courtesy of Brittany Ghiroli, mlb.com):
Each one is more and more special, because it shows I’ve been able to maintain and stay in the big leagues. … I think this one is probably more important, because my kids are able to talk a little bit better and they understand what’s going on better. And that’s who I play for.
This was one game, meaning that the Orioles have 161 more of these. And obviously those won’t have the pomp and circumstance of Opening Day. However aside from the ninth inning, this was a great day all-around for the Birds. Between Genry, Bundy, Joseph, and Jones, the Orioles had a whale of a day. There’ll be some toils and snares this year for sure, but at the very least it was “the Captain,” Adam Jones, who made sure that this Opening Day was shaded with a deep shot of orange and black.