Burnes brings best stuff and Orioles win again on Opening Day (updated)

The last game played at Camden Yards pushed the Orioles to the brink of playoff elimination. Today really was the next chapter.

Opening Day healed the wounds. Corbin Burnes was a starter who tried to provide closure.

The ballpark was packed and a chant of “Let’s Go O’s” began immediately after the anthem. Fans already erupted during player introductions, with Burnes maybe edging out Gunnar Henderson, Adley Rutschman and Félix Bautista. The silence during the pregame “in memoriam” was broken by the image of Brooks Robinson on the video board.

This place couldn’t stay quiet for long.

Burnes’ first pitch was a 95 mph cutter for a strike to Anthony Rendon. The sixth, with the count full, struck him out.

Former Oriole Aaron Hicks swung through a curveball and went back to the dugout. Mike Trout barreled a slider and put it in the home bullpen.

Another damper wasn’t part of the Orioles’ destiny to begin the 2024 season. They scored twice against Patrick Sandoval in the bottom of the first, the lefty’s aversion to throwing strikes bound to backfire, and never let up, and Burnes got on an unstoppable roll in an 11-3 victory over the Angels before an announced crowd of 45,029.

Anthony Santander had four RBIs, including a 431-foot, two-run homer to left field off southpaw José Suarez in the fourth. Cedric Mullins hit a three-run homer to center field off José Cisnero in the seventh for an 11-1 lead. Burnes set a club record with 11 strikeouts in his debut, bumping John Parrish (2000), Sammy Stewart (1978) and Charlie Beamon 1956) from the top spot.

"It was fun," he said. "Got 162 games, it's always good to start with a win. Played good baseball today, those guys swung the bat well, played great defense, and able to keep them from scoring too many runs today. Overall, good day. Came out of it healthy, came out of it with a win, so it was positive."

Burnes, the 43rd Opening Day starter in club history, retired 18 of 19 batters and was removed after six innings at 82 pitches.

"Couldn't ask for anything more than that," said manager Brandon Hyde. "Just awesome, awesome performance."

This was the first opener in Baltimore since 2018, with the pandemic in 2020 and lockout in 2022 forcing a change in location. The threat of rain was hollow, like a bully backing down when challenged. The chill in the air made it feel like fall baseball, which the Orioles fully intend to play again but without the hasty exit.

These teams met on Opening Day for only the second time after the Orioles lost 7-2 in 1961 at Memorial Stadium. The Orioles improved to 46-25 overall and 33-13 at home in the club’s history and have won 11 of the last 14.

They didn’t have Burnes until today, and he more than lived up to his billing.

Burnes retired 16 in a row after Trout’s homer, the only hit he allowed, and among his 11 strikeouts were seven on curveballs, two on cutters and two on sliders. Trout was the only batter to reach base, and rounding them ruined Burnes’ shutout bid.

"It's not easy to do - new team, Opening Day, a lot of jitters," Hyde said. "Probably pretty anxious, and go out and do what he just did, it's really impressive."

"It's one of those days where everything lines up," Burnes said. "You've kind of got everything working and it becomes a really fun day because you can go about it in sequence and kind of do some things you don't normally do when you don't have everything working. But when you've got all four or five pitches working, it makes it fun. After about the second or third inning we kind of went into cruise control mode, just getting ahead and trying to get quick outs."

The crowd gave the veteran right-hander a standing ovation as he walked back to the dugout after striking out Miguel Sanó again to end the fifth and Rendon to complete the sixth. They recognize when an ace is showing.

"I knew it was a good start," Burnes said. "Fan base was great today. They came out, sell-out crowd, they were loud, they were on it from pitch one. So, to kind of soak that in and know that, hey, this is game one but we've got 161 more games of this. These fans want it more than anyone and they're going to be there supporting us March 28 to Oct. 1. It was a great atmosphere, fun Opening Day. Looking forward to the off-day tomorrow and get back after it Saturday."

Ramón Urías made the last out in the bottom of the fifth and Burnes walked onto the field before anyone else could leave it. He was in rhythm and nothing could disrupt it.

"He was really good," said first baseman Ryan Mountcastle. "That was a pleasure to play behind. That was unbelievable.

"He's a really good pitcher and super happy to have him on the team."

Dave McNally holds the team record for most Opening Day strikeouts with 13 in 1970, followed by Mike Mussina with 11 in 1998.

Burnes is the first pitcher with 10-plus strikeouts and only one hit or none allowed in his team's first game since Lon Warneke with the Cubs on April 17, 1934, according to STATS. He joins Bob Gibson as the only pitchers to 11 or more strikeouts, no walks and one run or fewer on Opening Day.

"It was awesome, amazing," said Jorge Mateo, who started at second base. "He was competing. Every pitch he was throwing, he was commanding it, and that was great for us."

The Orioles loaded the bases with no outs in the first on Henderson’s four-pitch walk, Rutschman’s bloop single to right and Mountcastle’s five-pitch walk. Henderson scored on Santander’s fielder’s choice grounder and Jordan Westburg lined a full-count single into center field with two outs for a 2-1 lead.

Rutschman lined a two-run single into center in the second inning, making him 7-for-7 in his last two Opening Days and reaching base in eight straight plate appearances. Don’t forget last year’s walk at Fenway Park.

Joe Lahoud was the last player to have a streak of reaching in eight or more Opening Day plate appearances back in 1968-72, per the Elias Sport Bureau.

Westburg made his first Opening Day roster today and fought to keep the moment from becoming disruptive and detrimental.

“It’s a blessing for us to be here, I’m super excited for it,” Westburg said before the game. “My wife (Anna Claire) got in last night and she’s telling me how excited she was for it. She asked me like, ‘How are you feeling about it?’ Honestly, I’m trying not to think too much about it. I don’t want to psych myself out. The energy’s already flowing enough. I don’t want to add to it. I want to calm everything down. That way, when I get in the game hopefully I can control my breathing, my emotions, control the pace I play at.

“I’m sure it’s going to be a whirlwind, but it’s one I’m really looking forward to.”

Sandoval was gone after 1 2/3 innings, five runs (three earned) and 60 pitches. Mateo doubled in the second after Urías reached on Rendon’s error. The inning also included Mountcastle’s single, Santander’s sacrifice fly and Austin Hays’ infield single.

"Coming off the season they had last year, when they won 101 games and the offense was so potent, when you return as many guys as you do with the experience they gained from last year, it becomes a very scary team, and I think they showed that pretty quickly tonight," Burnes said. "Came out, jumped on them early, kept on them, put up 11 runs. If you can put up 11 runs in a game, I think you're going to be all right."

Mountcastle had a sacrifice fly in the sixth to expand the lead to 8-1. Mullins followed Hays’ leadoff walk in the seventh and pinch-hitter Ryan O’Hearn’s double with his 403-footer that eluded Trout’s leaping attempt at the fence. Mullins was 3-for-27 with no extra-base hits in spring training and dealt with some hamstring soreness.

"What a great at-bat of a homer," Hyde said. "Multiple foul balls and then he gets on top of a heater and hits it to center field. Tough matchup for him to start the game against a good left-hander. Then they bring another left-hander in, and for him to have that at-bat, that's a great sign."

Dillon Tate, pitching in his first game since Oct. 5, 2022, allowed two runs (one earned) in the eighth. Mateo had a throwing error while attempting to turn a double play after a double, walk and strikeout.

Keegan Akin retired the side in order in the ninth with two strikeouts in his first game since June 28, 2023.

"The ability to put D-Tate in there as well as Akin, both hadn't been out there in a long time," Hyde said. "I wanted to get them on the mound as soon as possible. You can't simulate major league baseball in anything you do except the real competition. D-Tate got ground balls, that's what he's going to do."

The 11 runs are the second-most in team history for the opener behind the 13 scored in 1982 against the Royals. The crowd erupted and fireworks exploded after the final out. Nothing like the quiet filing out after the Game 2 loss in the Division Series.

"What a great energy in the ballpark," Hyde said. "The run down the orange carpet, I didn't trip. The energy in the ballpark was amazing, our fans were incredible all day long. We felt it from the time we got to the stadium. BP was a great atmosphere leading up to just awesome introductions, and the fans were really into it.

"It was a fun atmosphere, we're 1-0. It was a great way to start the year, but we have 161 of these more to go."

* David Rubenstein, introduced today as the Orioles' new control person, referred to Brandon Hyde as the best manager in baseball. Hyde doesn’t take compliments easily but was flattered.

“That’s really nice of him to say,” Hyde said. “My interactions with him have been incredible. He is obviously really smart, he’s extremely funny and witty and such a pleasure to talk to and really interested, curious. I’ve just walked away every single time, just thinking to myself, ‘This guy is unbelievable.’

“The whole group, I got to meet quite a few of them last night. They’ve been nothing but incredible to me so far. I’ve enjoyed being around them. They’ve been incredibly supportive and it’s been a real pleasure getting to know them.

“You’re talking about the next chapter and our guys are excited about it. I think guys are so focused on playing baseball right now that it’s not first and foremost on their minds, but if they haven’t already, they’re going to feel energy from it and they’re going to feel the enthusiasm this group is going to bring. I’m looking forward to all our players meeting them because it’s an incredible group.”

* The Orioles held a moment of silence for the victims of the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse and their families. Hyde began his pregame press conference by offering his condolences.

“I know today is Opening Day and it’s a special day for a lot of people, but I think it’s particularly important due to the tragic events Tuesday morning,” he said. “We’re thinking of the families, the first responders working tirelessly and all the workers that are impacted. We hope baseball brings everyone together and does its part to lift up our city.”

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