Each Monday, in this spot, I’ll try to give you fan’s look at what transpired with our Birds the past week and what lies ahead for the club. My only promise is that the piece will be totally biased and from a real fan, so here it goes.
1. Bundy Cruises, Cashner, And Gausman Struggle
The team’s biggest Achilles’ Heel from last year – pitching, particularly starting pitching – got a glimpse of what it might be like to have a true ace on Opening Day. Starter Dylan Bundy went seven economical innings, spreading five hits and striking out seven.
Hoping to build off of Bundy’s strong starting performance and make a strong first impression on Orioles’ fans, starter Andrew Cashner had an inauspicious debut yielding 5 runs – 4 earned and 3 home runs.
In the finale on Sunday, starter Kevin Gausman yielded a leadoff homer, a walk, two singles, a double and a wild pitch and before the Orioles even stepped into the batter’s box they trailed 4-0. Following up with a solo homers by Miguel Sano and Eduardo Escobar in the third and the Birds had quite a hold to dig out of.
Starting pitching has to get better or it will be a long season. Luckily, it’s still early.
2. Did The Birds Leave Their Bats In Sarasota?
In 11 innings on Opening Day, the Orioles had just 5 hits. On Saturday they were “no hit” through 7 and 2/3, still just mustering 3 hits. On Sunday, more of the same with just 3 hits on the afternoon and two of those came off of the bat of Chance Cisco.
The Orioles bats will eventually come to life. I’d like to use that old cliche that says “pitching is always ahead of hitting” this time of the year, but the Twins certainly didn’t subscribe to that old axiom swatting 7 homeruns over the 3 game set. If not for the “web gem” by Craig Gentry on Opening Day, that number would have been 8 homers over 3 games.
3. Jones Was The Hero In What Could Be His Last Opening Day In Baltimore
I was there first hand to see Adam Jones put “his team” on his back with his 11th inning game winning homer on Opening Day. While I was euphoric at the moment, it wasn’t soon after that I came to realize that could have been his last big moment here on Opening Day. With Jones contract set to expire the end of this season and with so much uncertainty around the future of the team, I couldn’t really relish in the moment with that thought in my mind.
4. Fans Want To Get Behind This Team
Of course Opening Day had the usual sellout with 45,000 -plus in attendance, a cool Saturday night evening match-up on Easter weekend had a crowd of nearly 18,000 on hand, followed by an Easter Sunday crowd with nearly the same attendance.
The Orioles have done some things to try to win back the fans. They made national headlines with their “Kids Cheer Free” program where up to two kids nine years old and younger can get a free upper deck ticket with a paying adult and the base running event on Sundays is always popular.
The team also made some moves, particularly in their starting pitching, that also won over some fans and showed a commitment to this team. Easter weekend, especially when two dates fall in March – is always a tough sell, but the fans came out.
5. Coming Up Next…
The club goes on a 7 day, 7 game road trip where they’ll help the Houston Astros open their home season, watching on while the team unfurls their 2017 World Series Champion banner. They’ll follow-up with a 4 game series in the Bronx versus the Yankees. Combined with the recently concluded 3-game set with the Twins, the Birds will finish up next Sunday with their first 10 games versus playoff teams from last season – a tough way to start the season, but a real test for a team that believes they can contend.