For their first game in front of fans at Camden Yard in two weeks, the Orioles took the field Monday night wearing specially made white home jerseys that said “Baltimore” across the chest, a fitting tribute to their home city after a difficult time.
The Baltimore riots forced the Orioles to postpone two home games, play another behind locked gates and relocate three more to Florida. But on Monday night, baseball returned to Baltimore as the Orioles opened a nine-game, 11-day homestand against with a game against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Coming off a weeklong trip to New York in which they lost five of six games, returning to Camden Yards — and some sense of normalcy — was just what both the Orioles and their fans needed.
The Orioles (14-16) hit three home runs and their pitchers struck out a season-high 13 batters in a 5-2 win. It was their fourth win at Camden Yards dating back to April 25.
“It was awesome,” third baseman Manny Machado said of wearing the special jerseys. “We're representing the city every day when we go out there, so to have it across our chests today, it meant a lot to us and we were just trying to rep the city the right way and show them who they are.”
A grass-roots campaign that named Monday night “ReOpening Day” aimed to fill Camden Yards as baseball returned.
Even though Camden Yards was less than half full — the announced attendance was 20,468 and the Orioles didn't see a significant walkup on game day — there was an unmistakable buzz in the air. A Baltimore City flag hung from the facade of the upper deck. Among the signs in the lower bowl was one that said “Believe in Baltimore.”
Even Showalter, who usually opts for a black pullover during games instead of a jersey, wore the special Baltimore jersey for the entire game to show solidarity with city.
“I'm very proud of Baltimore,” Showalter said. “I thought it was [a good idea]. Everybody wore it. … I liked it. Really like the part that says 'Baltimore.' Good looking.”
Saying he was energized by the crowd, right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez — who pitched in the Orioles' last home game, a contest that was closed to the public because of the unrest in Baltimore — struck out a season-high nine batters while allowed just two runs over seven innings.
Jimenez struck out the side in the first and the fourth innings.
"It felt great,” Jimenez said. “It felt good to be back. … All of the people that came to the game tonight, they were into the game since the first pitch so that definitely motivated us to play. You're going to have good fans out there cheering the whole game. It felt really good."
The Orioles hit two homers in the first inning off Blue Jays starter Marco Estrada, including Machado's leadoff blast, to take an early lead.
Machado went with a full-count 90-mph fastball over the outer half of the plate and sent it over the grounds crew shed in right field for his sixth homer of the season.
It was Machado's first career home run from the leadoff spot. He's hit first in the lineup in eight of his past nine games.
Later in the inning, after Delmon Young drew a two-out walk, first baseman Chris Davis jumped on a first-pitch delivery and sent it to nearly the same spot in right field, only about 10 rows higher.
Davis' homer — his second in three games — was his eighth of the season.
Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph added a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning — working a full count after being down 0-2 — that scored Davis from third.
"It's good when you can get a lead on the board quick," Machado said. "Ubaldo went out there and struck out the side, so whenever you can get that momentum going, you've got to keep rolling. That was a big first inning for us. That put us where we needed to be and it was a little extra energy that we needed."
Jones ambushed a first-pitch offering from Blue Jays reliever Steve Delabar in the seventh, sending a towering drive into the left-field seats for his sixth homer of the season.
Jimenez (3-2) posted his third quality start and went seven or more innings for the third time in six starts.
Jimenez's nine strikeouts were his highest strikeout total in more than a year. (He struck out 10 on May 2, 2014, at Minnesota.) In three starts against Toronto this season, Jimenez has 23 strikeouts and just six walks.
He is 6-0 with a 2.14 ERA over his last seven starts at Camden Yards dating back to last June 25. The earned run he allowed in the fifth was the first he has allowed at home in 18 2/3 innings this season.
"That will play against any team,” Showalter said. “He had a lot of counts in his favor, a lot of strike ones. Very aggressive. He threw a lot of fastballs that started as balls and came to strikes, and then some strikes that went to balls. When he's doing [that], he's got a chance to have a pretty good outing. Mixed in the split and the breaking ball and he was able to get ahead of some guys early with the breaking ball."
Ezequiel Carrera drove in both Blue Jays runs against Jimenez, including one on an RBI double in the seventh that came after the inning was extended following a third out that was overturned by replay review.
With one on and one out in the inning, Kevin Pillar hit a grounder to third and Machado started a 6-4-3 double play that seemingly ended the inning. Despite not being challenged by Jays manager John Gibbons, there was a crew chief challenge and the call was overturned at first. Pillar then scored on Carrera's double to center field over Jones.
Right fielder Delmon Young then made what might have been a game-saving catch on Ryan Goins' ball into the right-center field gap with the Orioles clinging to a 4-2 lead with Carrera on second and two outs.
"Oh, that's the play of the game,” Showalter said.
After Darren O'Day tossed a scoreless eighth, Zach Britton brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth after allowing a pair of two-out singles, but he got a lazy groundout from pinch hitter Jose Bautista for the final out of the game.