Mark Trumbo’s walk off home run on Opening Day gave the Baltimore Orioles some payback over Toronto after last year’s wild card game.
As the Opening Day ceremonies came to a close and it was time to PLAY BALL, Baltimore Orioles fans most likely flashed back a few months. The untimely end to the 2016 season was still fresh in a lot of people’s mind. This especially seeing that the O’s were playing the same Toronto Blue Jays – who walked the Orioles off on the AL Wild Card game.
The ironic thing is that Toronto has lost pieces year-over-year, and the O’s have remained largely the same (for the most part). Yet pundits are still in love with Toronto, and still not digging what the Orioles are throwing out there. So in all of these senses, perhaps it was fitting that these two teams met on Opening Day at Camden Yards.
The Orioles started Kevin Gausman, and with mixed results in a sense. Gausman’s line: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 4 K. Gausman actually pitched better than those numbers indicate, although you want your starter to go deeper than 5.1 innings. The four walks were also a bit much. However save for the fifth inning when he struggled and threw a lot of pitches, Gausman was fairly solid.
The Orioles got on the board first in the last of the third on Chris Davis‘ RBI-single. Mark Trumbo would add an RBI-double later in the inning, and the O’s had a 2-0 lead. However as I said, Gausman struggled in the fifth inning, issuing several walks. One of those came with the bases loaded, which cut the Orioles’ lead in half.
Gausman was able to record one out in the sixth before he was lifted in the wake of allowing a base runner. However after Gausman’s departure that base runner would come around to score on an RBI-double, tying the game. That run of course was charged to Gausman.
At one point the Orioles had 15 straight hitters retired by Toronto pitching. While that’s not good, it’s also a bi-product of a pitcher’s duel. While Gausman was long gone as the game wore on, the Orioles showed off one of the big strengths of the team: the bullpen. Through 5.2 innings pitched, the Orioles’ pen gave up six hits, two walks, and no runs. And that folks is outstanding no matter how you want to spin things.
As the game went to extra innings it took on the feel of last year’s AL Wild Card game more and more. And the players had to have noticed the similarities. Presumably Toronto had to think that at some point their heroics would push through just as they did the year before. But the Orioles sat in their dugout hoping to flip the script.
This time around, the Orioles found a way to work Zach Britton into the game, and he pitched two innings. However this Opening Day game will be remembered for two things: how it ended, and what foreshadowed how it ended. Toronto threatened in the 10th inning with runners at first and second. The Camden faithful seemed restless, as Toronto seemed to have the Oriole exactly where they wanted them. To add insult to injury from last year, was Toronto really going to at the very least take a lead against the Orioles and possibly beat them again on Opening Day (at their place)?
And the answer ended up being an emphatic NO! With Pillar at the plate, a bouncer was hit to Manny Machado guarding the line at third base. It was a tough angle, and in fact Machado was perhaps the only player in the game who could have made a play on the ball. With most third basemen, that would have been an infield hit. Instead, Machado fielded the ball, and from his knees threw Pillar out at first base.
That gold glove-caliber play put Toronto on warning that their heroics weren’t going to be enough. New day, new year. However the game did end in similar fashion to that wild card game last year – just with a different team celebrating. The Orioles had the heart of the order coming up in the 11th inning, and it didn’t disappoint…
…Mark Trumbo came up with two outs and nobody on. However the home team bats last, and all the Orioles needed was one run. And Trumbo connected, reminding the Orioles and the fans why the club re-signed him. His solo homer gave the Orioles a 3-2 walk off win on Opening Day at Camden Yards.
Trumbo addressed his heroics after the game, and admitted how special of a moment this was (quote courtesy of Steve Melewski, MASNsports):
Pretty special. It’s a whole lot of fun. We battled tooth and nail today. It was a great game all the way around. Was happy to come through and take us home.
Perhaps saying that this was payback from the Orioles’ perspective in the wake of a sudden death loss in the playoffs is a bit of a stretch. However several players and manager Buck Showalter pointed out how similar this game was to the playoff game last year. It merely unfolded in reverse at the end.
The fact is that nobody can take away that moment from the Toronto Blue Jays last year. But the same is true with the Orioles’ moment yesterday. And quite frankly, while that was a playoff game, yesterday’s moment was a lot more relevant to the here and now.