In just over two weeks, the Orioles’ 2020 season has been full of challenges. The latest was unexpected, just like the storm that suddenly appeared at Nationals Park on Sunday a little after 2:30 p.m.
While it was comical to watch the grounds crew attempt to unravel a tangled tarpaulin, the result wasn’t funny to the Orioles.
They appeared to be on their way to a third straight win over the Washington Nationals when the field took on too much rain to resume play. Even if they hold on to the 5-2 lead they had when play was suspended, it won’t feel the same.
Nothing does in 2020.
Last week, the Orioles lost four straight to the Miami Marlins, who hadn’t played in eight days because 18 of their players tested positive for Covid-19. They were the visiting team in two of those games to make up for the two games that were postponed in Miami.
What 2020 has taught the Orioles is to be adaptable.
New rules are seemingly made up on the fly. Extra innings begin with a runner on second base, doubleheaders are seven innings and Major League Baseball has introduced a flex schedule because of the coronavirus.
Last week, after ruling that rosters would be reduced from 28 to 26 on August 20th, MLB decided that because of injuries and illness, they would hold at 28 for the rest of the season.
Six months ago, spring training began and news of the coronavirus was thousands of miles away.
The big story was the Houston Astros’ electronic sign-stealing scandal, which hasn’t been forgotten by Houston’s opponents.
Quickly, our world changed and baseball, the least flexible of all sports, has had to change its ways.
When the Marlins-Orioles games were postponed two weeks ago, MLB scheduled two games with the New York Yankees instead.
Last week, the Marlins were the home team in Baltimore. On Friday, when the Orioles-Nationals is resumed in the top of the sixth with runners on first and second and one out, the Nationals will be the home team — and it won’t seem weird.
Rule 7.02, reads in part: A game shall become a suspended game that must be completed at a future date if the game is terminated for any of the following reasons:
(1) A curfew imposed by law;
(2) A time limit permissible under league rules; (3) Light failure, malfunction of, or unintentional operator error in employing, a mechanical or field device or equipment under the control of the home Club (e.g., a retractable roof, a tarpaulin, or other water removal equipment).
The malfunction was caused by the Nationals’ grounds crew, and the rule was properly interpreted.
Fortunately, the suspended game can be resumed quickly. A technicality in the rules once caused Luis Montañez to be denied a place in the baseball history books.
On August 6, 2008, Montañez hit a home run in his first major league at-bat against the Angels in Anaheim, California, becoming just the second player in team history to do so. That distinction stood for 19 days when a game suspended on April 28 in Chicago was resumed in Baltimore. Montañez was inserted into the game as a pinch-hitter in the 12th inning and grounded out.
Even though Montañez had hit the home run in his first game 19 days before, the April 28 game, which resumed on August 25th, became his major league debut, and although the home run remains in the records, the distinction of hitting one in his first major league at-bat vanished.
Incidentally, the Orioles were the road team in the resumed game, which was eventually won, 4-3, in 14 innings. The game-winning hit was by Luis Montañez.
If the Orioles make any roster changes between now and Friday, those players will be eligible to play in the game. Statistics from the game will count.
While the 2020 season has been challenging for the Orioles, it also has been satisfying. They’ll enter Tuesday’s game in Philadelphia with a 7-7 record. The Orioles thought Sunday’s game would mark the quarter-point of the season.
Even though the Orioles have played only 15 games, manager Brandon Hyde said it still feels like August.
Hyde has deftly handled the challenges of the 2020 season, and the guess here is that, somehow, Major League Baseball will find a way to complete the season.
In the seven weeks between now and then, other unimaginable challenges will face the Orioles. They may not make the expanded postseason, but it’s clear that it’s a better team than many of us thought just a few weeks ago.