Their first one Saturday showed, at the very least, that it was possible for the Orioles to scratch a win together this season.
In doubling down with a 7-5 win Sunday to clinch an improbable series victory over the host New York Yankees this weekend, the Orioles' second win of this young season confirmed what was clear in their first: their only use of the word easy this year will probably be facetious.
“Hey, I'm used to tough wins,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “This league, nothing's handed to you. And even if you're a good club, people come at you — there's good pitchers around the league. There’s good teams everywhere. Nothing is easy, and I'm fully aware of that. That's why you appreciate every single win, because a lot goes into it, and it's hard to do.”
Over nearly four hours of baseball after a three-hour, 17-minute rain delay, Hyde's Orioles needed every bit they got to secure their first winning record in a calendar year. They rode home runs from Renato Núñez, Trey Mancini and Joey Rickard and survived an uneasy start from Dylan Bundy by cobbling together 16 outs from a bullpen that was asked for all 27 on Saturday.
The last time they had a winning record was their 1-0 mark on Opening Day, last March 30.
“It's three games in 162, but it's great to get off to a good start,” Hyde said. “It's great to be playing with the energy we're playing with. I love the feeling in our clubhouse. I thought our guys stayed engaged during the delay and wanted to play. Give a lot of credit to our guys for hanging in there today.”
The 197-minute rain delay came from what was meant to be a passing early-afternoon shower, and it was still drizzling when the Orioles teed off for a big first inning against Yankees starter J.A. Happ. Dwight Smith Jr. doubled and went to third on Mancini's fourth infield single of this season, and both scored when designated hitter Núñez crushed the Orioles' first home run of the season.
Mancini broke his small-ball run with a towering home run to center field in the fourth inning, giving the Orioles and Bundy a 4-0 lead.
Bundy, however, couldn't sustain his early success and lost his delivery over the course of the third and fourth innings. By the time he left with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth, he'd struck out eight and allowed just two hits, but walked five Yankees batters.
Left-hander John Means — one of the only relievers available after the Orioles used six pitchers to secure Saturday's white-knuckle 5-3 win — came in and allowed all three of those runs to score on an 11-pitch walk to Brett Gardner and a two-run single by Aaron Judge.
But these Orioles, apparently, answer back. Jonathan Villar reached on an infield single in the fifth inning, stole second base, and advanced when catcher Gary Sánchez's throw went into center field. The Yankees drew the infield in to try and keep him at third, but Smith flipped a run-scoring single into left field to give the Orioles some cushion.
And though Means ended up using his changeup to great effect in the ensuing three innings, collecting five strikeouts mostly because of the dozen whiffs he got with the pitch against the heavily right-handed Yankees lineup, that extra run came in handy. He finally hung a changeup with two outs in the seventh to Sánchez, who hit it out to left field to cut the Orioles' lead to 5-4.
Means left having allowed just the one run in 3 1/3 innings.
“That was just enormous for us, to eat those innings that he ate,” Hyde said.
“John was able to do a heck of a job there,” Bundy said.
A wall-scraper of a two-run home run from Rickard went into the first row of seats in right field with two outs in the eighth inning and, for the second inning in a row, brought Mychal Givens in ahead of the ninth-inning assignment that was assumed to be held for him.
Givens made things far more interesting than they had to be when, with one out, he hit DJ LeMahieu, then committed an error trying to start a double play with a throw to second base on a comebacker. After striking out Judge, he walked Giancarlo Stanton to load the bases before getting out of the jam with a ground ball.
The ninth inning was on track to be much simpler before a two-out walk and an infield single brought the tying run to the plate. After LeMahieu singled home a run, Givens — having thrown a career-high 49 pitches a day after throwing 16 — gave way to Paul Fry.
Fry struck out Troy Tulowitzki for his first save of the season, and Means’ win was the first of his career. He said it meant a lot coming at Yankee Stadium in such circumstances, but Hyde didn’t give much thought to who was on the other side as the Orioles jumped to this improbable 2-1 start.
“All I care about is our club, to be 100 percent honest,” Hyde said. “I care about our club, I care about our guys, I care about how we play, I care about the energy we play with, I care about getting better, I care about health of our guys. Our club, for me, is what matters. Yeah, I mean, there's good opponents. That's a good club, and I have an appreciation for a lot of teams. But really, my focus is on our team and how we play. I'm happy with how we played these first three games.”