There are a lot of cliches that get deployed in talking about baseball. One of them goes like this: Every team is going to win 60 games, and every team is going to lose 60 games. It’s what you do with the rest that counts. This saying has the advantage of being so obvious that it must be true. It’s not an iron law, but it’s close. Few teams win 100+ games and few teams lose 100+ games.
This thought came to mind during the unfortunate Brad Brach in the ninth inning portion of what turned into an extra innings 3-2 Orioles win over the Twins on Opening Day. It was a weird game that could have turned into a frustrating and agonizing loss and instead ended up being the kind of win where all you can do is shrug and say, “Hey, it still counts.”
This was probably one of “the rest,” the 42 games that could go either way for any team, good or bad, and for the Orioles, it ended up in the win column. That’s a good thing.
The Orioles should have won
Most of the time that a starting pitcher goes seven shutout innings, his team is going to win the game. By that standard, of course the Orioles “should” have won as a result of Dylan Bundy’s dominant outing. Bundy allowed just five hits and one walk over his seven innings, and with only 88 pitches thrown, might even have been good for more.
What’s more, if the official scorer had actually been paying attention to the game, one of the five hits would have been an error. Again, if the starting pitcher gives up just five runners in seven innings, that’s probably going to be the winning team.
As a result of Bundy’s dominance, the Orioles probability of winning the game was never lower than 44.4%, which came when a wild pitch put the Twins go-ahead run in scoring position in the eleventh inning.
The Orioles should have lost
The Orioles only got five hits in eleven innings of baseball. That’s bad. They batted .147 and had an OBP for the day of .256. They went just 2-9 with runners in scoring position and one of those hits didn’t even score a run. They should have lost this game.
The anointed Opening Day closer came in with a two-run lead in the ninth inning and gave up two runs without finishing the inning. It’s hard to win when the closer blows the game, though it is a bit easier to do this at home when you bat last.
Excuses can be made for Brad Brach if you want - the runs only scored on a cheap bloop hit; Chris Davis should have fielded an easy grounder and the same napping official scorer called another obvious error a hit - but it’s still a blown save in the box score.
When I wrote above that this was a weird game, I mean weird in ways like this: It’s not every game where you see a team get to score two runs in an inning where they strike out four times. What’s more, the two runs that scored came in on a play where Caleb Joseph tripled.
The Orioles don’t triple. Catchers don’t triple. Camden Yards is not a ballpark where many triples are surrendered. Baseball is its most fun when the unexpected happens. But most games a non-producing Orioles offense that strikes out 13 times will not be bailed out in this way.
While running down the unlikely, let’s not forget about Craig Gentry robbing a home run. His presence on the roster and in the Opening Day lineup were not exciting, yet there he was in the middle of a key play all the same. This is not something you get every game, either.
The win still counts
The Orioles are 1-0 in the standings. None of the bad stuff matters right now. It was just one game. If some of the problems on display on Opening Day, like spotty infield defense, an inability to hit or get on base, and late-inning reliever meltdowns continue to happen, then yeah, the Orioles are going to lose a lot of games.
They will lose so many games that it won’t matter that they won on Opening Day. Brilliant Bundy pitching can’t save the Orioles every day. There is, at this moment, no clear idea of what is going to come from the rest of the rotation - or, for that matter, from Bundy himself once he’s in the middle of a full season’s workload.
I don’t think the Orioles are going to be as bad as all that, though, or at least I sure hope they’re not. I think that as the season goes along, they will find a way to hang close enough in the picture, like they did until September last season, that the fact that they have this fluky win in the bank will be a plus.
If, as people think, the Twins are wild card contenders, it may even matter that the Orioles “stole” this game from Minnesota. One game can really make all the difference! Remember 2016, when any one extra win would have put the wild card game in Baltimore. Better for the Orioles to get an early start on the pile of games we’re glad they won than the ones we hate that they lost.
An Orioles division opponent saw the other side of this on Opening Day. No one will shed any tears in Birdland for the fact that the Red Sox lost a game where Chris Sale pitched six shutout innings and the Red Sox took a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning against the Rays. If we’re lucky, the Sox will be sighing come September about that loss. If we’re really lucky, they’ll be sighing while looking up in the standings at the Orioles.
For now, the Orioles are undefeated and they’re in first place and that’s a lot of fun. We’ll have a better idea of how good they really are in a hurry, since 18 of the first 24 games come against 2017 playoff teams and 11 of those 18 games are on the road. Hopefully, the Orioles go on to win enough of the remaining 161 games that this exciting Opening Day win makes a difference.