Mancini, Means share special Orioles' Opening Day win in Boston - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Mancini, Means share special Orioles’ Opening Day win in Boston

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

BOSTON—On a day that was supposed to be about Trey Mancini’s triumphant return to baseball a year after colon cancer surgery, he shared his moment with another Oriole, who also was affected by cancer in 2020.

On an Opening Day pushed back a day by raw weather, John Means took the mound against the Boston Red Sox, allowed a single to Kiké Hernández in the first inning, then didn’t give up another hit in seven innings as the Orioles beat the Red Sox, 3-0, on Friday.

At game time, it was a chilly 37 degrees, but Means threw 97 pitches and retired his final 18 straight batters after Maikel Franco’s second-inning error allowed Xander Bogaerts to reach. Means struck out five and did not give up a walk.

“It was a really cool experience, something that I’ll be able to tell my kids forever,” Means said.

Mancini, who received applause from the 4,452 at Fenway, also accepted hugs from Boston catcher Christian Vazquez, first base coach Tom Goodwin and others.

“It means everything in the world to me,” Mancini said. “I’ve played against these guys for years, and you get to know them through that. It was really classy and really meant a lot to me.”

His last game before Friday came in Boston on September 29, 2019.

Mancini hit into double plays his first two at-bats, walked and scored on his third, and singled in his final at-bat.

“Once the game started, it felt a lot like my major league debut,” Mancini said. “There’s a lot of nerves, a lot of emotions that go along with the day. Then once the game starts, it all kind of went away.

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“I think in years past, the way I started the game, grounding into two double plays, I might have let that spiral out of control, but I did a really good job today.”

Cancer has altered his perspective and encouraged others to share their stories with Mancini.

“There was a guy that said that his sister was battling colon cancer right now, and it meant a lot for me to be back playing for them,” Mancini said. “Interactions like that were so cool. Everybody here at Fenway was amazing here today.”

Manager Brandon Hyde felt uneasy before the game began.

“Opening Day is always a little bit heavy,” Hyde said. “You’re nervous. You have butterflies. I know it’s only one of 162, but it’s definitely a different feeling. It’s almost a playoff-style feeling before the game where you’re nervous, you’re anxious. You want to see what your team is going to look like, and then you add in all the things we had.”

One of those was Hyde’s decision to start Rio Ruiz at second base. A week ago, it seemed certain that Yolmer Sánchez would be the Opening Day second baseman, but he was released after the team acquired right-handed pitcher Adam Plutko.

Ruiz, who had all of two innings of major league experience at second, made a terrific running catch on Rafael Devers’ pop to shallow right in the second, another fine running catch on Marwin Gonzalez’s pop, ending the fifth, and an outstanding diving stab of Adam Verdugo’s grounder in the seventh.

“How about that? That was unbelievable,” Means said. “Those are two of the toughest catches you’re going to see made in a season. Those are not easy.”

After five scoreless innings, the Orioles scored two in the sixth. Pedro Severino led off with an infield single against Nathan Eovaldi. After Cedric Mullins struck out, Matt Andriese replaced Eovaldi and walked Mancini. Second baseman Kiké Hernández booted Anthony Santander’s grounder to load the bases.

Ryan Mountcastle’s two-run double off the Green Monster scored Severino and Mancini.

Mullins led off the eighth with a single and took second on Mancini’s single. Santander singled to right, scoring Mullins, but was out at second as Mancini was trapped in a rundown between second and third.

Tanner Scott walked two in his scoreless eighth, and César Valdez, who made an Opening Day roster for the first time at 36, allowed a two-out double to Bobby Dalbec, and earned the save.

It was a crisp game played on a bitterly cold day.

“I’ve played a lot of cold games here in April,” Mancini said. “It’s not ideal. Even though I went to Notre Dame, I still despise the cold. I do not like playing in the cold at all.

“I started the game without an undershirt on, and I quickly had to run in and put my undershirt on. I just couldn’t take it. It was cold, but everything was great today.”

Mancini realizes the grief Means had to deal with last season because of the death of his father to cancer in August. He made sure to share his day.

“It was a really special day for both of us,” Mancini said. “To be out there together, and I’m really proud of the way he performed today.”

Even though Mancini compared the day to his major league debut, it was more meaningful.

“When you hear you’re diagnosed with cancer, baseball was the last thing on my mind,” Mancini said. “Quite frankly, before I knew anything about the cancer, whenever the doctor told me, I thought I was never going to play baseball again.

“I made sure to soak it all in, no matter what happened today and just appreciate doing this for a living. I’m not every going to take that for granted.

“I’m a year removed from the diagnosis, going through six months of chemotherapy. A lot of things ran through my mind today, days where I couldn’t get out of bed, days where I was hunched over the toilet sick. It was all worth it, to be back here, to be back out here with the guys. It’s something that I can’t describe.”

No second-guessing Ruiz: Hyde was non-committal before the game about future starts for Ruiz at second.

“We’re going to see how it goes,” Hyde said. “He hasn’t had a whole lot of time at second base. He played there quite a bit this past week, got a couple of games in, a lot of work in the back field, a lot of work with [infield coach Tony Mansolino], getting to know second base.

“Bottom line is to try to get [Maikel] Franco, Ruiz, both their bats in the lineup the same day, especially against someone like [Nathan] Eovaldi. I’d like to have some left-handers in there against him. I think it’s going to be a decision on a daily basis. He’s going to play a lot, and today’s he’s at second base. We’ll see how it goes the rest of the way.”

Odds and ends: Hyde expects Shawn Armstrong, who’s on the paternity list, to rejoin the team for its series at Yankee Stadium, which begins on Monday … The taxi squad for the trip is: infielder Richie Martin, outfielder Ryan McKenna, catcher Austin Wynns and right-handed pitchers Travis Lakins and Isaac Mattson.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB

37 Comments

37 Comments

  1. CalsPals

    April 2, 2021 at 6:55 pm

    Congrats to both of these guys & the entire organization…one request, give a smiley face or something positive if you agree, we don’t mind questioning each other’s baseball knowledge, or lack of, drop all the political crap, let’s stick to the first place Orioles, sorry New York…go O’s…

  2. Codder

    April 2, 2021 at 7:02 pm

    Means might be what Bundy and Gausman were supposed to be. Next up the new and improved Matt Harvey

  3. Shamus

    April 2, 2021 at 7:06 pm

    I agree. It looked like Hyde was getting emotional in the post game questioning … Just when I get excited about baseball ramping up, MLB gets political. Baseball is my escape from all that other BS, and now MLB is trying to make me make difficult decisions.

  4. BrooksPJs

    April 2, 2021 at 7:26 pm

    Wowzers! Shocked by the combined two hitter. Great to see and hope it is a sign the O’s pitching will be much better than anticipated (by me at least).

    Great also to see Mullins and severino get two hits a piece and Ruiz make a good showing at 2B.

  5. Beachdogs

    April 2, 2021 at 8:26 pm

    Great opening day team win!!! Go O’s

  6. dlgruber1

    April 2, 2021 at 8:45 pm

    I don’t know what looked stranger, the cardboard cutouts of fans last year or seeing 4 thousand in Fenway. Either way, great job by Means, clutch hitting by a Mountcastle and the bullpen closing it out. Beautiful.

  7. Grand Strand Bird Fan

    April 2, 2021 at 8:59 pm

    Means excellent pitching performance and clutch hitting by Mountcastle and Santander lead to a big win. Ruiz defense was huge too.

  8. Kjbsball

    April 2, 2021 at 9:05 pm

    Enjoyed that so much. Means. Was. Incredible. — a little nervous the BP wouldn’t hold it tbh. – Ruiz was so good at 2n but just curious if anyone noticed the “defensive” replacement in the 9th. Personally, I think Hyde pulled Franco for not getting out of the box and hustling down the line on his grounder to 3rd that was nearly misplayed. I hope that’s why. If he hustled and beat it out maybe he scores on galvis double. Thoughts from anyone else??

    • Raymo

      April 2, 2021 at 9:25 pm

      Good observation. If that’s what triggered the move then I applaud Hyde.

    • dlgruber1

      April 3, 2021 at 12:36 am

      I actually thought it was just a straight defensive move to get Ruiz to 3rd and Urias to 2bd but thinking about it now you could have something there. If so I’m like Raymo in applauding then move. I loved Buck but he let Manny get away with murder and that’s not good for a team.

  9. DcOsfan

    April 2, 2021 at 9:12 pm

    🙂 . What an opener. Worth waiting an extra day for it.

  10. Birdman

    April 2, 2021 at 9:15 pm

    Great start to the season … its a big if, but if the starting rotation can somehow manage to perform close to the same level as the bullpen and the offense, I think O’s could be looking at a 70-75 win season.

  11. Raymo

    April 2, 2021 at 9:29 pm

    I was really glad to see Valdez close out the game. I just admire his persistence sticking to his baseball dream for so long.

  12. geevee3

    April 2, 2021 at 10:59 pm

    CalsPals:, whatever happened to the “if you don’t like it don’t read it” take?

    • Icterus fan

      April 3, 2021 at 12:30 am

      Don’t you have to read it first to determine whether you do or don’t like it?

      • geevee3

        April 3, 2021 at 12:35 am

        That was exactly my point.

  13. 33d St

    April 2, 2021 at 11:29 pm

    Heck of a game! The guys you expect to hit, hit. The guy you expect to pitch well, pitched well. Just like they drew it up! 🙂

    Hey we’re 1-0. For one night we’re in first place again. Not bad!

  14. geevee3

    April 3, 2021 at 12:37 am

    For the record, I agree with leaving the politics out of baseball blog comments.
    Thanks, Rich, for a wonderful article.

  15. Orial

    April 3, 2021 at 8:07 am

    Hard to leave politics out of baseball when politics is obviously NOT being left out of baseball. Warning to all–“you ain’t seen nothing yet”. Sad.

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      April 3, 2021 at 9:07 am

      I agree Al. I’m having a hard time dealing with it. I’ve had enough, and yet, I can’t imagine filling my retired summertime life without baseball.

      Really torn between my scruples and my love of the game. F the league and Manfred for putting it’s fanbase in this quandary.

      • VICTORTEE

        April 3, 2021 at 9:11 am

        If you are a MAGAT you have no scruples.

    • Tileman

      April 3, 2021 at 9:30 am

      BRR agree with you and was hoping you’d see the light as well.

  16. Tileman

    April 3, 2021 at 8:08 am

    Based on what MLB did to Georgia moving the All Star Game MLB and unfortunately the O’s are dead to me. Go woke Go Broke

    • VICTORTEE

      April 3, 2021 at 9:12 am

      Poor poor MAGAT. You and your fearless leader EX-Pres Chump are both losers.

      • Boog Robinson Robinson

        April 3, 2021 at 3:33 pm

        President Chump. That’s really clever.

    • Tileman

      April 3, 2021 at 9:31 am

      TeeHee Your Mom must really really be proud of you. People like you are killing America

  17. Hallbe62

    April 3, 2021 at 9:53 am

    Rich (or any of you so called “plank owners”), is there any way to block comments or users within the developed software of this site ?

    I prefer my politics & news from __________, and when I have a hankering for good ole’ fashioned rhetoric……I go to Bleacher Report.

    But I come here (faithfully) for Orioles news and sometimes (but rare) some banter amongst the regular posters.

    Those type of user controls would greatly improve this site. I’ve seen it work well on other sites.

    • CalsPals

      April 3, 2021 at 9:58 am

      :)….go O’s…

    • Birdman

      April 3, 2021 at 10:17 am

      I agree that that this site is better off without political commentary … but just to be clear, look at the the comment threads from yesterday and today, and see which “side” of the debate initiated, and continues, the political comments.

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