BALTIMORE—Perhaps fans had begun to think that the massive rebuilding process the Orioles have undertaken was going to produce instant results. If they did, the sixth inning of Thursday’s home opener may have changed some minds.
The Orioles came back to Oriole Park after winning four of their first six games this season in New York and Toronto, delighting their followers, many of whom would have been satisfied with just a win or two.
While the team won four in a row on the trip, equaling the longest winning streak in the disastrous 2018 season, it’s clear that this team is better than it was a year ago, but not close to being relevant.
The Orioles led, 4-1, through five innings, but after Alex Cobb, who still hasn’t won a game at home since he joined the team last year, allowed Gary Sanchez’s home run, Mike Wright imploded in the 8-4 loss to the Yankees.
Wright allowed each of the four batters he faced to reach, and after Gleyber Torres’ second home run of the game, a three-run shot, the happy crowd turned somewhat surly.
They began booing Chris Davis when he struck out to end a three-run first, and became louder when he was called out in the fourth and louder still in the sixth when he struck out yet again
Davis is hitless in 17 at-bats this season, striking out 10 times, and dating back to 2018, he’s without a hit in 38 at-bats. When Zack Britton came in, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde pinch-hit journeyman infielder Hanser Alberto for Davis in the eighth.
Fans wonder how much longer the Orioles will be patient with Davis, who has just begun the fourth year of a seven-year, $161-million contract.
The answer isn’t known, but general manager Mike Elias, who watched part of the game from the stands, isn’t afraid to make decisive moves.
On Wednesday, with Pedro Araujo needing just 11 more days in the major leagues to allow the Orioles to freely option him, Elias designated him for assignment, unwilling to be patient with a Rule 5 draft choice chosen by his predecessor.
The previous regime was ever-patient with Wright, and Elias and Hyde may not be.
“It seems like the same song and dance even though it’s a different year, a different vibe,” Wright said. “Obviously, I feel way better and just one pitch makes it seem like it’s the same old Mike Wright.”
By the time Luke Voit hit a three-run home run against Miguel Castro in the ninth, the Yankees scored seven unanswered runs, and much of the announced crowd of 44,182 had departed.
The day started on a lovely note. Game-time temperature was 66 degrees, and the fans greeted the Orioles, especially Hyde and Trey Mancini, enthusiastically, though some booed Davis’ introduction.
Before the game, Hyde jokingly said he wouldn’t hurt himself running down the orange carpet.
“It’s a lot longer than it looks,” Hyde said about his run. “It was very, very special. The crowd reaction was phenomenal. It was everything I hoped it to be, and there was great energy in the ballpark today. Loved it, loved how the fans came out and were loud. I just thought it was a great environment today.”
Longtime broadcaster Joe Angel, who retired before this season, threw out the first pitch, and Cobb, who was scheduled to pitch last week’s opener at Yankee Stadium but didn’t because of a right groin injury, had a decent start, allowing the home runs to Torres and Sanchez in 5 2/3 innings.
“You really just cherish any time you can go out into a big league game and there’s that type of atmosphere,” Cobb said.
“Obviously, our goal is to get that type of atmosphere in the playoffs and in September when you’re chasing that playoff spot, but you learn from it because there’s a little more adrenaline added to it. You have to know how to handle those situations. It was a lot of fun, I enjoyed it. The crowd was great. They cheered us a lot, and I wish we could have given them a victory to go home to.”