Brandon Hyde joked this week that he wanted to high-step down the Opening Day orange carpet like Deion Sanders on his way to the end-zone to show the sellout crowd what these fun, unburdened Orioles are all about.
He didn't, of course, but his team obliged Thursday by making as apt a first impression at Camden Yards as they could — by jumping out to an early lead, riding their starting pitcher into the middle innings and desperately trying to hang on through whatever relief was required.
Only this time, that lead didn't make it deep into the Orioles bullpen. Not even close. Mike Wright relieved Alex Cobb after 5 2/3 strong innings and allowed two hits before a three-run home run by Gleyber Torres put the Orioles behind in an 8-4 loss in their home opener against the New York Yankees.
“It was one of those games where the long ball beat us,” Hyde said. “I think all eight runs were via the home run. But I thought we played well — we just didn't execute certain pitches in bad spots.”
This loss, before an announced crowd of 44,182 at Camden Yards, fits tidily with the six road games that preceded it. These Orioles might not be as good as their 4-2 road trip indicated, but they certainly are consistent. And on a ceremonial day in which everything from the Orioles legends in attendance and the orange carpet introductions felt familiar, this outcome — at least in the context of the season's first week — was not.
This loss broke from the season’s early patterns in a manner that dropped the Orioles to 4-3 on a mostly positive day at Camden Yards, save for the boos that cascaded down on hitless first baseman Chris Davis.
One thing that's evident with these Orioles is that they're ready to play when they're supposed to be, especially in the batter's box. Perhaps because it's when their best hitters come up, or perhaps because the clubhouse coffee is strong, the Orioles jumped to early leads three times on the opening road trip and did the same Thursday.
Jonathan Villar homered on the second pitch he saw to lead off the first, and a pair of walks by Trey Mancini and Rio Ruiz around a single by Renato Núñez loaded the bases and set the Orioles up to score more. The first run came on a balk by Yankees pitcher James Paxton. The next pitch was a curveball in the dirt that allowed a run to score.
By the time the Orioles' first inning ended with a strikeout by Davis — his first of three Thursday to extend his hitless run to begin the season to 21 plate appearances — they led 3-0. That they had eight more hits but scored just once more, when birthday boy Renato Núñez had his second hit of the day to score Dwight Smith Jr. in the fifth inning, showed their general lineup imbalance. The top four hitters Thursday — Villar, Smith, Mancini and Núñez — have accounted for 18 of their 25 RBIs this season. A pinch-hit single by Hanser Alberto in Davis’ seventh spot in the eighth inning, and a flare to center field by No. 9 hitter Richie Martin in the ninth, spared the bottom third from going totally hitless.
That means even when you get the starting pitching the Orioles have had, wins are tough to come by. Cobb gave the Orioles everything they could want in his first start off the injured list with a groin strain, using his split-change that he rediscovered in the second half of 2018 to mostly keep the Yankees off-balance. Home runs to Torres in the third inning and Gary Sánchez in the sixth were his only blemishes, and he left in line for his first win at Camden Yards since joining the Orioles, allowing two runs on five hits with one walk and four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.
Wright, who was tasked with starting the process of piecing together the final 10 outs, didn't even get one. He gave up singles to Greg Bird and DJ LeMahieu before Torres' second home run of the day.
“I tried to go down and away three times and missed up and in to the same spot three times in a row,” Wright said.
Said Hyde: “It was pretty much the same pitch he swung and missed at 0-1, it was 94 [mph] at the belt and he tried to go up there a little higher and kind of left It in the fastball. Gleyber can hit a heater — always has.”
One hit later, Wright was done. John Means covered four outs and Mychal Givens kept the eighth scoreless before putting two men on for Miguel Castro, who allowed a three-run home run by Luke Voit in the ninth, putting the game out of reach.
This has been the Orioles' way through this young season — roll with a reliever who's liable to end up in some trouble until he does, and, in some cases, simply hope he'll get out of it. Wright has been counted on in close spots before, but has allowed home runs in his past two outings. Means has been effective both times he has pitched this season, and Givens and Castro might have the best stuff on the team.
Even as the Orioles won four straight, however, there were cracks, which the past two losses have shown. Their 6.32 bullpen ERA doesn't flatter, and neither did Thursday’s score.
“I'm going to continue to throw those bullpen guys out there, show confidence in them,” Hyde said. “Those guys threw the ball well in New York. Today, it didn't happen.”
Saturday, 7:05 p.m.
Radio: 105.7 FM
O’s starter: RHP Dylan Bundy (0-0, 7.36 ERA)
Yankees starter: LHP J.A. Happ (0-1, 9.00 ERA)