It’s never good when time spent in a rain delay takes longer than an actual game. And, second to Matt Wieters’ walkoff single in the bottom of the ninth, Monday’s 2016 opener is going to be remembered for the rain delays that lasted nearly three hours – longer than the actual 3-2 O’s victory.
The one thing that shouldn’t be forgotten, though, is just how good right-hander Chris Tillman was – albeit for two innings before the second delay occurred.
Tillman faced six batters and struck out five of them. He threw 22 pitches, 17 for strikes. His pitches were darting and he was throwing with a confidence and crispness that we didn’t see as often as he would have liked in 2015.
My theory is we didn’t see Tillman fully healthy in 2015 – though he would never admit to that. He’s not a guy who is going to make excuses; he’s just going to give everything he has on a given night. And he had a whole lot to give Monday.
“Command was there from the get-go, and I was able to mix things in as the game went on — I know it was only two (innings),” Tillman said. “I didn’t get a really good chance there, but it felt pretty good.”
Although the Orioles’ starting rotation is probably going to be targeted all year as the team’s weak link, and understandably so, I really think Tillman is going to have a strong season. And Monday was certainly a good beginning to it.
Probably the coolest moment of Monday’s game was Joey Rickard’s third at-bat, when fans at Camden Yards started chanting “Joe-eeey, Joe-eeey.”
“Oh man, I was trying not to look too happy and excited, but it was something special for sure,” said Rickard, whose outstanding spring allowed him to make the team as a Rule 5 pick. “Very passionate fans. I’m hoping to continue and give them what they came to see.”
A legend was born after his first two at-bats, when he singled and doubled – he also scored the Orioles’ first run of the season. It was a tremendous debut. That wasn’t lost on his teammates. But neither is the reality of a long season.
“It was good. Baltimore appreciates guys out there grinding and he had a good spring training, so I was glad he was able to get that first hit out of the way,” Adam Jones said. “His family was here. He got to share that not just with family but with his teammates. … So that’s Game 1 out of Game 162. Now move on to Game 2 and see what he does again.”
Rickard’s catch – a good one?
I started a little Twitter war Monday night – a fun one, anyway – with some of my followers when I called Rickard’s decision to catch a foul ball off the bat of Kurt Suzuki a “rookie mistake.”
In retrospect, maybe I made the rookie (at this site, anyway) mistake.
There was one out, runners on second and third and the Orioles up by one run, 2-1. Brad Brach, a guy who can get strikeouts, was on the mound, and Suzuki is no longer much of an offensive threat.
So I suggested that Rickard should have let the ball drop instead of catching it, which allowed the tying run to score on a sacrifice fly. (The Orioles ultimately won, so that run meant nothing.)
Rickard admitted he considered doing just that, letting the ball drop.
“Definitely when it crossed the line, it crossed my mind,” Rickard said. “I just continued to stay aggressive. When in doubt, just be aggressive. In that case, it worked out for us.”
Rickard asked Showalter about the decision when he came into the dugout.
Showalter told Rickard – and the media after the game — that the rookie made the right call, especially since it was at home and taking the sure out is key.
So, I’ll acquiesce to the manager, the player and the majority of my Twitter followers and take the error on that one.
We all know the Orioles have banned celebratory pies in the face this year. But Jones apparently found a loophole. He hit Wieters in the face with a cake with orange icing after Monday’s win.
“It was a cake. You know, I’ve lost control of the team again,” Showalter said as the media laughed. “Pick the battles worth winning, right? It had some kind of orange look to it. It looked very cakey to me.”
Jones wasn’t shedding light on the subject.
“It doesn’t matter. You want to talk about the game or pies?” Jones said. “I plead the fifth. I plead the fifth That’s a valid answer.”