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Schmuck: Gloomy Opening Day gives way to uplifting Opening Night for Orioles

The Orioles' opener turned into an evening to remember after a day to forget.

It was a crappy day that could easily have turned into a crappy night, which would have been no way to open a new baseball season.

Instead, the Orioles waited out two rain delays, overcame the disruption of their pitching staff and celebrated a sudden-death victory over the Minnesota Twins with something else that was not supposed to happen on Opening Day at Oriole Park.

Matt Wieters, who won the game with a two-out RBI single in the ninth inning, got plastered during the postgame television interview by teammate Adam Jones, even though the players had been put on notice by the team this spring that they were no longer allowed to celebrate an exciting victory with flying dessert.

Perhaps Jones found a loophole. The dessert in question, though it arrived in a pie pan, apparently was not a pie. It was a cake. If that seems like a bit of legalistic hair-splitting, Jones wasn't going to get trapped into explaining it.

"I plead the fifth," he said.

He also didn't explain whether he was exercising a constitutional right or referring to the fact that it was his long double in the fifth inning that drove in the first two Orioles runs and set the stage for his club's two-out rally in the ninth.

Manager Buck Showalter was no help either. When asked whether what happened immediately after the dramatic win was a violation of team rules, he dodged the question.

"Clearly," he joked, "I've already lost control of the team."

Just as clearly, the marathon day that began with a long rain delay and was interrupted by another could have just as soon ended unhappily. The Twins rallied to tie the game in the seventh inning and threatened to take the lead a couple of times, which might have focused more attention on the miserable weather that upstaged the upbeat pregame ceremonies.

The decision to delay the game from the start was standard operating procedure. Neither manager wants to send his No. 1 starter to the mound with a chance of having his first start wiped out by rain, but that's the way it turned out anyway.

In hindsight, of course, the Orioles and Twins probably could have started the game and gotten into the sixth or seventh inning before the rain got heavy enough to force what would turn out to be the second delay. Instead, both teams still had to change pitchers after two innings and both of them were pitching like No. 1 starters.

Chris Tillman was overpowering and then some, retiring all six batters he faced and striking out the last five of them. Ervin Santana allowed a couple of hits to newcomers Mark Trumbo and Joey Rickard, but also pitched a pair of scoreless innings.

The second delay forced both teams deep into their bullpens, but that wasn't a major issue once it became apparent that the game would get played because of the built-in rain makeup date Tuesday.

When the skies cleared in the early evening, the outlook for the Orioles brightened considerably. Possible fifth starter Tyler Wilson pitched great for three innings. Rickard touched off a two-run rally with his second hit of the game in the fifth inning and cemented the infatuation of his new fans, who greeted him with a loud and rhythmic chant of his first name when he came to the plate for the third time.

He wasn't the only new Oriole to make a terrific first impression. Trumbo, whose reputation has been built on prodigious home runs, singled in four of his first five at-bats as an Oriole and did something he had not done during his entire 2015 season with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Seattle Mariners. He stole a base in the first inning, which had to have the advance scouts in attendance scratching their heads.

The one reservation that anyone expressed about the deal that brought Trumbo to the Orioles was that he supposedly didn't satisfy the club's need for a solid on-base hitter. He's known as a big-swinging homer/strikeout guy. But he showed a different side of his offensive game by spraying singles to right, left and center field.

So, it was entirely a case of all being well that ends well. Showalter wouldn't bite on a question about the difference between winning and losing a game after enduring all that made this Opening Day an ordeal.

"It was a challenging day emotionally — a lot of emotional swings in the pregame and that's part of Opening Day," Showalter said. "And a lot of people, mostly fans, have put a lot of time and effort into making this a special day and we didn't want to let them down — not only win the game but trying to present what Opening Day is supposed to be about."

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

twitter.com/SchmuckStop

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

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