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Schmuck: Blue Jays, not bad weather, make a mess of Orioles' home opener

Sun columnist Peter Schmuck recaps the Orioles' 12-5 loss to Toronto in the home opener. Watch more videos.

Upon further review, maybe a rainout wouldn't have been such a bad idea.

Orioles officials spent Friday morning huddled in their weather war room on the clubhouse level at Camden Yards, watching the storm tracks develop on large video screens and discussing contingency plans for a possible postponement.

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If only.

The dire prospect of looming thunderstorms ended up providing the only real drama on Opening Day at Oriole Park, where not a single raindrop fell after first pitch, but an inordinate number of baseballs fell untouched in the outfield courtesy of the free-swinging Toronto Blue Jays.

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It certainly wasn't the way Orioles fans generally celebrate their home opener. The Orioles have made a habit of delivering uplifting performances on the first day of baseball in Baltimore and they have been particularly successful in openers at Camden Yards, where they arrived on Friday with a 17-6 record.

Obviously, the past was not prelude on this particular afternoon, when the Blue Jays greeted Orioles starter Bud Norris with four runs in the first inning and kept pounding away until he had suffered through his worst performance in an Orioles uniform.

During his three-plus innings on the mound, the big question hanging over the proceedings evolved from "Can they get this game in?" to "Can the thunderstorms get here before the fifth inning and wash it away?"

Certainly, this was not what Norris had in mind for an initial encore to the best season of his major league career. He won 15 games last year and had a solid 3.65 ERA, which positioned him well to take advantage of his free agent walk year. He still has plenty of time to do that, but it's got to smart to start a season like that.

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"It was frustrating,'' Norris said. "I wasn't great today…I've got to get better. This is the first one of many, so take it with a grain of salt. I've got a lot more in the tank and I've just got to learn from it."

The final score screams blowout, and it would be hard to argue it was anything else after the Blue Jays built an 11-2 lead by the middle of the sixth inning, but there were a couple of junctures early on when the game might have taken a different turn.

The Orioles had the bases loaded with two outs in the second inning and were only three runs back when new infielder Everth Cabrera sliced a line drive to right field. Jose Bautista moved toward the corner to make a routine catch to end the inning, but a few feet farther left and the game might have been tied.

They also had a chance to narrow a four-run gap with runners at the corner in the third, but Delmon Young went first-pitch swinging and bounced into a double play.

"I'm not going to get into they had stuff fall and broken bats … that's part of baseball," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "But we were right there a couple times getting back in it. That ball's another three feet on Bautista. This time of year, you try to make sure you have some length for tomorrow. If we had a different bullpen scenario it would have been a little closer … We were so close to changing the look of that game."

There were some bright spots. The Orioles offense had gone 16 innings without scoring after jumping six runs ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays early in the second game of the opening series at Tropicana Field. That struggle continued through the early innings, but Adam Jones broke out with a four-hit performance that included his first home run and Jonathan Schoop also homered for the first time.

Maybe the Orioles would be better off if the clouds had opened up and forced the game to be pushed back into a two-admission doubleheader on Saturday, but even in the wake of a one-sided defeat, the Orioles seemed happy to start on time, get the game in and stay in a normal game-a-day routine.

That's probably best for the bullpen and a roster situation that already is challenging under the most normal of conditions.

"It was good that it didn't [rain] and we could get the game in," Jones said. "When things start on time, everything sinks in. It was a great Opening Day. Obviously we wanted to win. Our effort level was there. We just didn't score enough runs."

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

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