Orioles catcher Matt Wieters talks about hitting the game winning walk-off single for a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Twins. (Kevin Richardson/Baltimore Sun video)
Orioles catcher Matt Wieters, who spent his spring slowly working back from a scare with his surgically repaired right elbow suffered three weeks ago, sent the Orioles home winners Monday on Opening Day.
Wieters hit a walk-off ninth-inning single with two outs to score first baseman Chris Davis, capping a rainy day with a 3-2 win over the Minnesota Twins before a sellout crowd of 45,785 at Camden Yards.
The baseball game was as disconnected as could be from the Opening Day festivities that preceded it, as rain delays of 101 minutes to start the game and 70 minutes after the second inning broke up the day's events. The game lasted 2 hours, 48 minutes, and sat for 2 hours, 51 minutes.
The game really got going when Rule 5 draft pick Joey Rickard doubled to lead off the fifth inning, moved to third on a single by Manny Machado and scored ahead of Machado on a two-run double by Adam Jones.
Minnesota pulled even in the seventh inning before Wieters won it in the ninth.
Tillman starts hot
The in-game rain delay was particularly hard for Orioles fans to stomach because of how well starter Chris Tillman began. Working with a fastball that was touching 95 mph, Tillman struck out five straight batters after a pop-up to lead off the contest. He needed just 22 pitches, but a long rain delay forced him out of the game after showing what might have been some of the best stuff he has had with the Orioles.
Outside of the doubles by Rickard, Jones and Jonathan Schoop, the Orioles hit all singles Monday. Most of those were hit by slugger Mark Trumbo, who logged four hits and also stole a base in the first inning. The Orioles' cleanup hitter might not be responsible for much small-ball this season, but he certainly was Monday.
Wacky wind stumps Hardy
The first out of the game came on a wind-blown pop-up to shallow left field that brought shortstop J.J. Hardy into foul territory, then required him to backtrack into play to make a one-handed catch.
In the second inning, Hardy hit a ball that took a similarly bizarre path and looked like it was going to be foul ball down the left-field line. But it blew back fair and had a shot to be a home run, then was caught just short of the warning track. The wind mostly died down after the second rain delay.
The Orioles held onto their mid-game 2-0 lead for just over an inning before the Twins got to a bullpen duo whom manager Buck Showalter will likely rely on heavily — right-handers Mychal Givens and Brad Brach. Givens pitched a scoreless sixth, but in a three-batter span in the seventh allowed two doubles sandwiched around a hit batter, surrendering a run. Then Showalter called for Brach, who saw an inherited runner score on a sacrifice fly Rickard caught in foul territory.
Showalter said toward the end of spring that he hoped to see better plate discipline from his team, and some of his most strikeout-prone players earned free passes Monday. First baseman Chris Davis, designated hitter Pedro Alvarez, Hardy and Schoop all walked on Opening Day.