Nelson Cruz's solo homer lifts the Baltimore Orioles over the Boston Red Sox on Opening Day

What a day.

The World Series Champions came to town to take on the newly constructed Orioles on a glorious afternoon for Opening Day in the Charm City. And if the amazing weather and sites and sounds of this should-be national holiday weren’t enough to fill your pallet, then how about a nice, tidy 2-1 win as the cherry on top?

And that’s exactly how it went down yesterday at the Yards.

unnamedNewly acquired OF/DH Nelson Cruz hit Red Sox ace John Lester’s first pitch of the 7th inning (I texted Zach he would) into the left field lower box to give the O’s a 2-1 lead that would hold thanks to some great relief pitching from Zach Britton (2 IP and the W), Evan Meek, Brian Matusz and of course, my boy, Tommy Hunter. OD starter Chris Tillman was good, not great in his five innings. He only gave up one run, but threw 104 pitches (72 strikes). I wasn’t surprised Buck decided to let him throw that many pitches on OD, especially since he needed to go five innings to qualify for the win.

Others that stood out to me were third baseman Ryan Flaherty who was filling in for Manny Machado. He didn’t make any “Manny” type plays, but did make all the plays needed in a clean and efficient matter. His glove won’t hurt the Orioles at third if rookie Jonathan Schoop gets the majority of starts at 2nd (which I think he will). But when Manny does comes back (my guess is late April), this opportunity to play third for Flaherty can only help the Orioles depth and versatility the rest of the season.

Speaking of Schoop, the dude is huge. Sitting in my section 8 row 3 seats I got a great view of this giant playing second base. I totally understand it was only Opening Day and I “might” have consumed more than one adult beverage, but to me he looked like a major leaguer. He singled sharply in his first AB and did KO later in the game. Hitting ninth in this strong lineup will provide him with plenty of opportunities to drive in runs without the pressure of being the “man”.

Lastly, I wanted to point out how just one day can change the perception of a team going forward in a long, baseball season. The Orioles win behind a Cruz (offseason signing) dinger and they close it out with a new closer who takes over the role from a guy who blew his first opportunity in Oakland (Jim Johnson: 0.1 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, BB).

Again folks, it’s only one game, but just think what the narrative would’ve been today if Hunter would’ve blow the save and Cruz wasn’t signed because of a squeaky owner? Additionally, are you okay today with signing Cruz instead of paying Johnson ($8 million everyday player > $10 million closer, IMO).

I know it’s just one, but it was a good one to get…#OrangeKoolaid

Image Credit: Keith Allison