The Orioles did not beat the Twins all of last season. They got that monkey off their back right away in the 2016 season, coming through with a ninth inning walkoff to win 3-2 on Opening Day in Baltimore.
Not only did they walk off their '15 nemesis, the post-game celebration saw the return of the Orioles traditional post-game pie to the face. Matt Wieters hit a single up the middle with men on first and third and two outs in a 2-2 tie game in the bottom of the ninth inning.
In his post-game interview, Adam Jones came out and blasted Wieters with something orange in a pie tin. The pie tin was, apparently, actually a Creamsicle-ish cake of some kind, so Jones boldly plowed right through a glaring loophole. The spirit lives.
Jones might have deserved a pie or cake of his own. It was Jones who put the first two O's runs of the year on the board earlier in the game, coming through with a double in the fifth inning that very nearly became a home run. Still, it was good enough to score Manny Machado all the way from first, as well as Joey Rickard, who started out on third.
As if the Orioles could play any other kind of game after the offseason they just went through, it was a strange baseball game in many ways. Things started out strange enough before the game even began with a rain delay of 1:41 hat was largely rain-less. When the two teams finally started the game, they were only able to play two innings before the heavy rain finally arrived and another delay of 1:10 kicked in.
The second delay chased both starting pitchers from the game. That was unfortunate for O's starter Chris Tillman, who came out of the chute looking like he meant business, striking out five of the first six batters he faced. Maybe this was the day an O's starter was finally going to throw a solo no-hitter in my lifetime. No, probably not. But the rain came and washed Tillman from the game.
The second act of the game
Dreams of a combined no-hitter didn't survive more than one batter after the second delay ended. Eduardo Escobar greeted Tyler Wilson with a double. However, Wilson was able to strand Escobar on second, and in all, he pitched for three innings while giving up only two hits.
It may be that Wilson's infield defense bailed him out on a couple of sharply-hit balls, but they all look the same in the box score. If he's lucky enough to pitch in front of a good defense, is that his fault? No!
The O's were unable to make anything happen against Twins reliever Ryan Pressly, but in the fifth inning they jumped over Casey Fien. Rickard sliced a ball down the left field line that Twins right fielder Miguel Sano couldn't get to quickly, allowing Rickard to take second on the play with his speed. He moved up to third when Machado added a single, and that's where they were when Jones drove them both in.
For Rickard in his major league debut, it was quite a day. Rickard got his first ever MLB hit in the second inning of the game, a two-out line drive single right up the middle. He added the double in his second place appearance, and by the time he came up again in the sixth inning, what remained of a sellout crowd was chanting his name, "Joey! Joey! Joey!"
It's one thing, surely, for fans to get excited if there's a hot prospect and chant for, say, Machado and Wieters when they were rookies, but Rickard is a fringe guy, unheralded. A Rule 5 pick. Then again, maybe it's not such a surprise the Baltimore crowd loved him right away. We love an underdog. No, he didn't keep hitting for the cycle, although he did range what seemed like the entire length of the field in catching a foul pop-up in the seventh inning.
A scoreless inning's not always a Givens
Unfortunately for the O's, that nice Rickard catch - which he had to make with two doofus O's fans in the way who didn't clear a path - came with the tying run on third base because Mychal Givens had a bit of a rough seventh inning. Givens had pitched the sixth inning without incident, allowing only a Joe Mauer single against the shift. This was good enough for Buck Showalter to go to Givens for the seventh as well.
Eddie Rosario hit a one-out double off Givens, who lost control of a slider against the next batter, Byung-ho Park, putting two men on. Escobar hit a double off the right field wall to score the Twins first run. That was enough for Showalter, who summoned Brad Brach. Brach got his guys out, though the game-tying sacrifice fly did still cross on Rickard's rangy catch, with the run charged to Givens.
Perhaps Givens wasn't the only rusty O's reliever. The eighth inning turned into a bit of an adventure for Darren O'Day as well. The second of two Twins hits off O'Day put Mauer on third base with two outs. O'Day, cool cucumber that he is, induced a weak pop-up to end the threat.
Zach Britton followed O'Day's act with a 1-2-3 in the ninth inning. Using the closer at home in a tie game in the ninth, that's the textbook stuff, and it paid off for Showalter as the O's rallied to win the game in the ninth.
The O's put together the game-winning rally with two outs. Twins reliever Kevin Jepsen widely chose discretion over valor and pitched around Chris Davis, who already had one near-home-run probably sapped by the cold April air. The thus-far unmentioned Mark Trumbo delivered what was the fourth of his four singles in his O's debut, a good day for my fellow Mark.
Davis got a good break on this ball and took third with his aggressive baserunning. This proved to be crucial when Wieters hit the game-winning hit. Davis might not have been able to score from second. He easily scored from third. The Orioles were in the win column, finally, against the Twins.
There can be no better proof that the 2016 team isn't the same as the 2015 one. Whether that's a good thing in the long run, we will find out over the course of the season. On Opening Day, it's a good thing.
After a Tuesday off day, the two teams will be back in action on Wednesday evening at the standard civilized baseball time of 7:05pm Eastern. Yovani Gallardo will make his O's debut in the game, with Kyle Gibson scheduled to start for the Twins.