The Orioles entered Tuesday’s season opener against the Tampa Bay Rays with the right approach at the plate, but they weren’t able to vanquish Rays fire-baller David Price to the dugout until after the sixth inning.
Showing patience in the batter’s boxes, the Orioles quickly ran up Price’s pitch count to 60 through three innings -- and jumped out to a 2-0 lead -- as the reigning Cy Young Award winner struggled to locate his fastball early in the game. In those three innings, only one of the Orioles’ first 14 batters swung at the first pitch.
The Orioles weren’t as selective over the next three innings, swinging at the first pitch six times. Some of that surely had to do with Price finally settling in after a shaky start. Price threw 40 pitches in his final three innings.
In his six innings, Price allowed seven hits and two earned runs -- both coming on Matt Wieters' home run in the first -- and struck out four Orioles while walking two batters. Of his 100 pitches, 68 were strikes.
Even though the Orioles, who went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and stranded five runners against Price, squandered their opportunities to maybe knock Price out of the game earlier, their deliberate approach at the plate was a welcome sight on Opening Day.
In the first inning, 20-year-old third baseman Manny Machado saw seven pitches from Price before grounding out. Later in the inning, first baseman Chris Davis rallied from an 0-2 count to draw a six-pitch walk.
In the third inning, Wieters, who went 2-for-2 against Price, fell behind 1-2, but fouled off seven pitches as he drew a 13-pitch walk. It was more perseverance than patience, but that was a great at-bat.
As a team, the Orioles averaged exactly four pitches per batter against Price, eventually chasing him after six innings. And then they pounced on Rays reliever Jake McGee, scoring five runs in the seventh inning to take a 7-3 lead. They won, 7-4.
Last season, the Orioles were seventh in baseball with 3.87 pitches per plate appearance. (The Oakland Athletics led the major leagues with 3.98 pitches per plate appearance.) Of course, many of those at-bats ended in strikeouts, as seven different Orioles struck out at least 100 times and the team as a whole had 1,315, sixth-most in baseball. But I suppose there are worse things than strikeouts.
Of course, one game out of 162 is a small sample size, but Tuesday’s game was a nice start for the Orioles.