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Opening Day nailbiter! Orioles waste big lead but hold on to beat Red Sox, 10-9

This one was ugly and stressful but it ended up in the win column after all

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox
In the end, what matters most is the Orioles won and got to do the celebration.
Photo by Paul Rutherford/Getty Images

In the end, the only thing that matters is that a game goes into the win column. The Orioles should have had an easy, breezy win after scoring ten runs against the Red Sox on Opening Day. Instead, they gave everyone a whole lot of stress by barely holding on to a 10-9 win that ended with the tying run on second base and the winning run at the plate. A win is a win, but some wins make you worry about what will happen when they don’t score ten runs.

Let’s focus on the awesome stuff before airing the grievances, because there was a whole lot of awesome stuff. The top of the first inning saw Adley Rutschman blast a 402 foot home run with the first swing he took in the 2023 season. This was only the first of what turned out to be a five-hit day for Rutschman, pending a generous scoring decision in the ninth that may be reversed later.

For now, the stat people are on the case to offer this factoid: Rutschman has become the first player ever to go 5-5 or better with 4+ RBI in an Opening Day game. He’s also become just the third player ever to have a 5-5 Opening Day with multiple RBI. The other two players are Billy Herman and a guy you might have heard of: the Pigtown-born George Herman Ruth, went by the nickname Babe.

That’s pretty good! So was the Orioles combining for five stolen bases, none of which even drew a throw. Cedric Mullins and Jorge Mateo had two steals each, with new Oriole Adam Frazier adding another one. Each of Mateo and Frazier had two hits as well as a walk on Opening Day. As a team, the Orioles drew nine walks and combined for 15 hits, and they batted 5-14 in opportunities with runners in scoring position. It was great. Except for all the stuff that sucked.

The downers that dragged this game from an unqualified success to an almost-unrivaled stressor began almost immediately as well. If you look at the game log, it tells you that the first Red Sox batter, Alex Verdugo, tripled off of the lone Orioles free agent starting pitching signing, Kyle Gibson. Verdugo then scored on a groundout. That early Orioles lead lasted two batters.

What the game log does not tell you is that this triple resulted from Mullins misreading the fly ball, stopping to jump when he had steps left before hitting the wall. It was catchable and instead it was a triple. This was only the first of a series of bad reads. The entire outfield got in on the act at least once. Austin Hays was left flatfooted in right as Rafael Devers doubled over his head in the fourth inning, and Anthony Santander stepped back instead of forward on a line drive in the sixth inning.

Every one of these was a ball that could have been caught, instead was not, and ultimately led to runs being charged on Gibson’s ledger. His line in the box score isn’t pretty: Five innings-plus, four runs allowed on six hits and a walk. The innings eater did not eat innings and the innings that he did pitch did not have good results.

Things could have been only slightly different and Gibson would have had six shutout innings with a chance to pitch into the seventh. He even got screwed after he left the game, as Keegan Akin was unable to strand the inherited runners. A maybe-fieldable grounder hit off the bat of Masataka Yoshida to Frazier got through into the outfield and then, with a men on first and third and one out, Ryan Mountcastle fielded a grounder in front of first base. He might have been able to throw home to stop the run, or throw to second to get an inning-ending double play. It was like he was a deer caught in the headlights. Mountcastle only stepped on first base for the second out.

Even here, the Orioles led by an 8-4 margin, and they scored two more in the top of the seventh to make it 10-4 as Mullins and Rutschman each drove in a run with a single. Rutschman got thrown out at second base after the throw home was cut off. They might have gotten Mullins at the plate, honestly. A six run lead with three innings left! There was no reason for things to get stupid, and even less reason after Cionel Pérez pitched a scoreless seventh.

Friends, it got stupid anyway. A person can apportion blame for this however feels natural to them. Bryan Baker, summoned to protect a six run lead, was not good. He was also not helped by his defense, as Santander again misread a line drive, this one over his head, which scored two of the runners that Baker had gotten on base. With the Orioles leading heading into the bottom of the eighth inning, ought it have been Ryan McKenna time before that? The team had a six-run lead, which is ordinarily not defensive replacement territory. Logan Gillaspie had to come in to get the third out of the inning Baker couldn’t finish.

Okay, fine, whatever. So that inning was dumb, but still, the Orioles led 10-7. That brought the game into Félix Bautista range. We all know how great Bautista was last year. Opening Day, not so much. Bautista walked his first man, pinch hitter Raimel Tapia, then served up a single to Verdugo. This was fielded poorly by Mullins, allowing both Tapia to get to third and Verdugo to second base.

The tying run was on deck and the acid reflux was in my stomach. Bautista struck out Devers, then gave up another single. Justin Turner’s base hit scored the eighth Red Sox run, put the tying run on base, and the winning run at the plate. Good gravy. Okay, but then Yoshida grounded a ball right at Mateo, who took a couple of steps, recorded the out at second base, and threw to first to end the game.

Or at least that was the idea, but instead Mateo bounced the throw, Mountcastle couldn’t pick it, a run scored, and the looming nightmare continued one more batter. Only then, with the tying run at second base, did Bautista get the big strikeout to end the game. A win is a win, but sheesh.

Unrelated to the outcome of the game but close to concurrently with the ninth inning drama, John Angelos called into a sports talk radio station in Baltimore while the game was going on. Asked by the hosts about his promises - twice in the last two months - to have opened the books to Orioles reporters, he deflected, instead pivoting to criticize a recent article in The Baltimore Sun that called him out for not living up to his promises.

Can this guy just shut the hell up already? Honestly, man. If you can’t shut up on your own then pay someone whose job it is to stop you from talking. I don’t want to see you or read about something you said ever again unless you’re going to show up at a press conference announcing a contract extension for Adley Rutschman or Gunnar Henderson, or the new Orioles lease for Camden Yards. Until any of those happen, go away.

Fortunately, whether or not the owner keeps his promises was not directly connected to the Orioles result today. (It may matter in the long run, but let’s not stress about that today.) The Orioles won. An ugly one, but a win nonetheless. They are 1-0. They are tied for first place in the American League East and the Red Sox are in last. Kyle Gibson is 1-0 as well despite a 7.20 ERA and Bautista has his first save despite a 9.00 ERA. Rutschman is batting 1.000 and OPSing 2.600 after one game, obviously on his way to a unanimous MVP award.

Games aren’t going to get much wilder than this, are they? We’ll get our next chance to find out on Saturday afternoon when this series resumes. Dean Kremer and Chris Sale are currently scheduled as the starting pitchers for the 4:10 second game of the series.


Who was the Most Birdland Player for Opening Day 2023?

This poll is closed

  • 98%
    Adley Rutschman (simply the best)
    (1057 votes)
  • 0%
    Ramón Urías (fourth-inning go-ahead home run)
    (5 votes)
  • 1%
    Jorge Mateo (2-3, BB, 2 SB)
    (11 votes)
1073 votes total Vote Now