The first impression the Orioles made in the 2020 season was not a good one. They showed up in Fenway Park and got thrashed by the Red Sox by a final score of 13-2. It is unlikely that anyone, anywhere was truly surprised to see this outcome, though even if you expected something bad from this team, you probably had to wince actually watching it all play out.
This is the most runs that the Orioles have ever given up in an Opening Day game. That, too, seems fitting for the beginning of the 2020 Orioles season. This team, like the two O’s teams that preceded it, seems to be destined to set some bad records, even if they only have 60 games to do it.
What else could be expected from a game that had to have an emergency backup Opening Day starter with only a couple of days notice, and when that backup starter was Tommy Milone, who hasn’t had an ERA below 4.76 since 2015?
The fairy tale version of the story would have had Milone do something like pitch a complete game, or even just a quality start, and lead the Orioles to victory. This is all the more true because, during the game, the MASN broadcast played some pre-recorded messages from players families to the players, wishing them well in the coming season. Among the messages was one from Milone’s family.
The families were all wearing masks to encourage mask use. So as Milone’s young daughters adorably preened, posed, and made faces for the camera, Milone’s wife said some nice words, including briefly pulling down the mask “so you don’t forget what I look like,” and I thought to myself, aw, man, I really hope he pitches well while they’re watching, because I’m sure they were watching. I didn’t even want him to do well because I wanted the Orioles to win - though of course I do - but because I wanted his family to see him do well if they were watching.
For two innings, Milone’s crafty lefty arsenal that never topped 88mph was able to duck around Red Sox bats and avoid significant contact. Two innings is not very many innings, but it was just enough where maybe even if you’re a tremendous pessimist you could have thought to yourself, “Maybe he’ll be OK.”
The third inning brought an end to this little fairy tale. Elsewhere in MLB on Opening Day, Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks threw a complete game three-hitter without ever throwing a pitch faster than 89mph. Perhaps Hendricks used up all of the junk ball magic for the day, because in Boston, the Red Sox were able to start socking Milone around, including four doubles that dumped in to almost identical spots in the left field corner. Would a more mobile left fielder than DJ Stewart have been able to do anything about this? We will never know.
This led to four runs scoring in the inning. Milone did not come out for the fourth inning, because when there is a 12-man bullpen you don’t need to keep pushing a struggling starter.
Milone did make a bit of Orioles history in the game by becoming the first player to wear the number 69 for the team. This was the lowest number that had never had an Orioles player wear it.
A tough outing, to be sure, but the game was not out of hand. This is the territory where you want a pitcher to come in and do something that might prompt a broadcaster to say, “He stopped the bleeding.”
Manager Brandon Hyde summoned Cody Carroll for relief to begin the fourth inning. Carroll, who did not pitch at the MLB level in 2019 due to injuries, made his 2020 season debut on the two-year anniversary of the day where he was dealt to Baltimore along with two other players in the Zack Britton trade with the Yankees. He did not stop the bleeding.
Carroll did not pitch like a player who is going to remain in the Orioles roster picture for very long. Even this bad team can do better than a pitcher who comes in, walks the first two batter he sees, gives up a hit to load the bases with no one out, and then walks in a run. That was Carroll on Friday night.
Hyde had seen enough. Carroll got the hook and departed with a 2020 ERA of infinity. His ERA remained at infinity as Travis Lakins Sr., making his Orioles debut, allowed all of the inherited runners to score, plus two more charged to his own ledger.
In all, four pitchers dropped in to the game for the Orioles. The best ERA at the end of the game from the bunch of them is 9.00. Lakins Sr.’s two innings had only two runs charged to him, though six scored while he was in the game. David Hess came on for the sixth and gave up three runs. Hess went for three innings total without allowing any more, so his ERA was also 9.
Surprisingly, despite giving up 13 runs, the Orioles did not allow any home runs, so at least for the first game of 2020 their failure is in a different form than it was in 2019. The 2019 O’s, if you have forgotten, gave up a home run about every 4 2⁄3 innings over their whole season.
While all of this predictably poor pitching was going on, the Orioles batters didn’t do much to cover themselves in glory either. They notched just six hits for the whole game and were outhit 17-6. This despite facing Red Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi, who was also an emergency Opening Day backup, and whose 2019 season ERA was 5.99. They had a number of balls that were scorched, but they just went right at fielders. Perhaps another day the BABIP dragon will be more on their side.
After a spring training and summer camp full of comments and stories about how Chris Davis gained 30 pounds of muscle and looked different, he went 0-3 in this Opening Day game, including one unfortunate play where he lined a ball right at the first baseman, when the first baseman was standing at first base to hold a runner there.
This does not mean that Davis’s 2020 season is marked for all-encompassing failure, but it would have been nice if he had gotten something positive accomplished in the first game. “Well, that lineout double play had an exit velocity of 100.1mph and an expected batting average of .590 on Statcast” doesn’t quite count.
Anthony Santander doubled off the Green Monster, slipped coming around first base, then was replaced in the game shortly afterward. It wasn’t immediately clear whether this was due to an active injury concern or just a precautionary rest in what at that point was already a clear blowout.
Following that, Renato Nunez broke up what was then a 10-0 shutout by driving home Santander with a double of his own. A bit later on, Rio Ruiz connected into the Red Sox bullpen for an FUHR (Eff You Home Run) to lock in the final score of 13-2. If you had Ruiz hitting the first home run of the Orioles season, please collect your winnings.
The good news about all of this is that the Orioles only have 59 more games to play. The other good news is that it’s July 24 and the Orioles are only one game back of the AL East leader. They will be back in action on short rest as Saturday’s second game of the season is a 1:35 start time. Alex Cobb is set to make the start for the O’s, with Martin Perez pitching for Boston.