Got the winter blahs? Repeat after me: Opening day is just a couple of months away.
This week’s set of “Orioles Classics” includes an opening day from four years ago that ended in a walk-off win for the O’s. You’ll also see a pair of late-20th century playoff games in Baltimore, one of which pitted two mound giants against one another and ended with the Birds advancing to the next round of the postseason.
Add to that a trio of games featuring pitching oddities and you’ll find enough fascinating baseball action to cure your cold-weather funk.
So scrap that scowl and warm yourself by the TV. This is gonna be fun.
Thursday, Jan. 23 - 7 p.m. - Lefty Jimmy Key was at the tail end of his notable career in 1997, when he played the first of his two seasons with the Orioles. On Oct. 4, 1997, Key was called upon to put his considerable playoff experience with the Blue Jays and Yankees to use in Game 3 of the American League Division Series. The Birds were back home in Baltimore, having won the first two games of the series by identical 9-3 scores in Seattle. Set up to complete the sweep, the veteran hurler gave up two runs on eight hits over 4 2/3 innings as Ken Griffey Jr., Jay Buhner and Co. stayed alive. Jeff Fassero pitched eight strong innings to pick up the win for the Mariners. Jeffrey Hammonds doubled in the ninth, bringing in two runs to halve the Seattle lead, but the Mariners won 4-2. Tune in again tomorrow for the happy ending of the ALDS.
Friday, Jan. 24 - 9 a.m. - Opening day 2017 arrived full of promise. The Orioles had earned a wild card berth the year before, with Mark Trumbo’s 47 home runs leading the majors. With the Blue Jays in town to launch the season on April 3, 2017, Trumbo mashed another one, an 11th-inning walk-off homer off Jason Grilli.
Friday, Jan. 24 - 7 p.m. - Two future Hall of Fame pitchers locked horns in Baltimore on Oct. 5, 1997 for Game 4 of the American League Division Series as Mike Mussina took on Randy Johnson. Johnson went the distance for the Mariners and held the Orioles to three runs on seven hits while striking out 13. But Mussina was masterful, allowing only one run on two hits while striking out seven. Armando Benitez and Randy Myers pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth inning, respectively, and it was on to Cleveland for the League Championship Series. Gerónimo Berroa and Jeff Reboulet homered for the Birds.
Saturday, Jan. 25 - 7:30 p.m. - Facing Tigers ace southpaw David Price on the road on July 18, 2015, Chris Tillman would have to be on his game. So when Detroit second baseman Ian Kinsler laced Tillman’s very first pitch into right center for a single and Victor Martinez drew a base on balls two batters later, O’s fans might have squirmed a bit. But Kinsler’s would be the Tigers’ only hit the whole night, and after Martinez’s walk, Tillman did not permit another baserunner as he completed eight innings. Manny Machado homered in the third, and Caleb Joseph’s single drove in two runs in the ninth. Zack Britton struck out two as he retired the side in order to nail down a 3-0 win.
Monday, Jan. 27 - 9 a.m. - May 6, 2012 provided the stuff of legend. Tommy Hunter started for the Birds at Fenway Park vs. Red Sox righty Clay Buchholz, but neither was very effective, and managers Buck Showalter and Bobby Valentine burned through eight pitchers apiece before turning in desperation to position players to take the mound. Chris Davis turned out to a more capable pitcher than Red Sox outfielder Darnell McDonald. Adam Jones crushed a three-run homer off the latter, and Davis returned to the hill for a second inning in the 17th. Davis proceeded to give up a single and a walk, but struck out Adrián González and got McDonald to ground into a game-ending double play to earn a win as the Orioles departed Fenway with a 9-6 victory.
Wednesday, Jan. 29 - 7 p.m. - The mano-a-mano aspect of baseball draws much of the attention, as the pitcher-hitter confrontation becomes the focal point. But teamwork’s important. On July 13, 1991, four pitchers teamed up to achieve a feat usually associated with a single individual, the no-hitter. The Orioles were in Oakland as Bob Milacki went six innings, then handed the baton to Mike Flanagan. Flanagan, Mark Williamson and Gregg Olson each handled an inning, and when it was over, no Athletics batters had hit safely. Chris Hoiles’ RBI single in the fifth and Mike Devereaux’s sixth-inning leadoff homer accounted for the only runs in the O’s 2-0 road win.