When it comes to winning home openers, the Orioles are about as close to the old "death and taxes" saying as possible.
They came to town for the first time this season boasting a 41-20 all-time record in such games, and they had some extra mojo that energized a sellout crowd of 45,936 at Camden Yards. The pre-game ceremonies, always dripping with pomp and circumstance, included a celebration of last season's AL East championship. The bunting was draped. Fireworks exploded. A giant American flag unfurled on the batter's-eye wall in center field during the national anthem.
The usual fare.
Festivities aside, Opening Day time always brings out the best in Baltimore. (OK, I know, it's not really Opening Day, which doesn't seem right. The Orioles are one of those teams that should always start the season at home.) The Orioles had won four consecutive home openers and 12 of the last 14.
And then there was Friday.
Bud Norris was off from the start, giving up four runs in the first inning against Toronto. The Blue Jays scored five more runs in the fourth, and they ran away with a 12-5 win that soured the day for players and fans alike.
“You always want to win the home opener,” said first baseman Chris Davis. “You have a good crowd, everybody’s going to be fired up. To not just lose, but to get beat up, it’s tough.”
All the good vibes that come with the first home game of the year were gone in a hurry, and all those fans who stood and cheered for highlight videos, many who saw their favorite players for the first time since last year's ALCS, were pretty quiet.
"It was a great Opening Day," said center fielder Adam Jones, who tied a career high with four hits. "Obviously we wanted to win, but our effort level was there. We just didn't score enough runs."
Jones pointed to the Orioles' 13 hits, one of which was his first home run of the season. And Jones came up just short of what would have been a highlight-reel catch in the first inning, a play that may have set a different tone.
Jays lead-off hitter Jose Reyes made Norris work before slapping a ball toward right-center. Jones, who prior to the game received his Gold Glove Award from last season, raced in and got a glove on the ball, but couldn't hang on. Reyes' single was one of four Toronto hits in the inning, and Norris needed 30 pitches to get out of trouble.
Jones got a run back with his solo shot in the first, which got the crowd back into it. The feeling inside the ballpark didn't last long, though, even after Norris retired the side in order in the second.
He didn't make it out of the third, pulled by manager Buck Showalter when he loaded the bases with no outs.
"It's disappointing," Showalter said. "You'd have liked to have a closer game and we won. We did some good things that will get overlooked. We were a couple of situations from getting back in it."
Maybe, maybe not.
The Orioles allowed the most runs in a home opener since April 4, 1988, when Milwaukee beat Baltimore 12-0.
The 52,395 who went to Memorial Stadium that day couldn't have known their team was about to lose its next 20 games on the way to some franchise futility.
No, this year's club won't start 0-21. It won't change managers six games into the season, like it did 27 years ago following that blowout against the Brewers.
The Orioles have too many pieces from last year's playoff team to be labeled losers. But Friday's game, while just one of 162 as Showalter and his charges are used to saying, didn't resonate like home openers of seasons past.
Norris' pitching line (three innings, eight earned runs, seven hits) was one to forget. Brad Brach didn't spell relief, either (five hits in two innings). Steve Pearce went 0 for 5 batting in the No. 2 spot. Delmon Young went 1 for 4 as the DH. Both of them, along with Manny Machado, grounded into double plays.
Lowlights mixed in with a few highlights, like Jones' big day and a late-inning homer from Jonathan Schoop.
Opening Day in Baltimore is usually reserved for a better outcome.
"All that individual stuff means nothing," Jones said, "if we don't win."