As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate small ball, the art of the opposite-field single, the sacrifice bunt, hitting behind the runner, the cat-and-mouse between a speedster taking a lead and the pitcher trying to make sure he stays put.
But one cannot deny the thrill of seeing a muscular dude launching a fastball that gets too much of the plate. Though you’ll also see some of the former in this week’s “Orioles Classics,” the latter takes center stage.
In the principal roles of big boppers are O’s first baseman Chris Davis and outfielder/designated hitter Mark Trumbo, who spent three seasons and change with the Birds. You can also catch Orioles legend Eddie Murray in a cameo that marked a career milestone.
So strap in, start the countdown and prepare for blast-off with “Orioles Classics.”
Thursday, Jan. 14 - 2 p.m. - Davis and Trumbo led the majors in home runs in 2015 and 2016, respectively. On opening day 2017, Trumbo carried over some of that mojo from the previous season. A single from Davis and a double from Trumbo drove in two runs in the third to give the Birds the early lead, but the Blue Jays scratched out a run each in the fifth and sixth innings off Kevin Gausman. Both bullpens got a workout as the game continued into extras. With two out in the bottom of the 11th, Trumbo drove Jason Grilli’s 1-2 pitch deep to left to make the O’s record 1-0.
Friday, Jan. 15 - 10:30 a.m. - It doesn’t have to be old to be a classic. After his breakout 2019 season, lefty John Means faced trials both personal and physical in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. But on Sept. 20, we all got a reminder of why he’d been the Orioles representative in the 2019 All-Star Game. Means fanned 12 batters as the O’s scratched out a 2-1 victory over the eventual American League champion Rays, Renato Núñez’s two-RBI single in the first providing the margin.
Saturday, Jan. 16 - 11 p.m. - Trumbo provided the winning run all by his lonesome on Sept. 23, 2016. With the Orioles hosting the Diamondbacks, the slugger hit a leadoff homer to give the home team a 3-2 win. Pedro Álvarez and Matt Wieters also had solo shots. O’s starter Yovani Gallardo went six strong innings, but Oliver Drake retired the side in order in the top of the 12th to get the win.
Monday, Jan. 18 - 6 p.m. - Following stints with the Dodgers, Mets and Indians, Murray came home when the Orioles got him for lefty Kent Mercker midway through the 1996 season. And so it was at Camden Yards that the switch-hitting first baseman hit his 500th career homer on Sept. 6. The also-ran Tigers would beat the playoff-bound O’s 5-4 in 12 innings. Rafael Palmeiro also went deep for the Birds.
Monday, Jan. 18 - 11:59 p.m. - A showdown of sluggers took place at Camden Yards on May 29, 2013. Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman would take Orioles pitchers over the wall three times, but Davis’ second longball of the night capped a six-run seventh inning that propelled the O’s to a 9-6 victory over the Nationals.
Wednesday, Jan. 20 - 9 a.m. - Davis enjoyed another two-homer game on May 16, 2017 in Detroit in a slugfest that went 13 innings even though the Orioles took a six-run lead in the third. Trumbo and J.J. Hardy also homered, and six O’s in all recorded multi-hit games as the Birds won 13-11.
Wednesday, Jan. 20 - 11:30 p.m. - The O’s and White Sox played just one extra inning on Sept. 7, 2013, but it sure was exciting. Conor Gillaspie homered off Tommy Hunter to break a 2-2 tie in the 10th. With one out in the home half, Henry Urrutia and Nick Markakis hit back-to-back singles. Nate McLouth took a called third strike, and the South Siders were on the brink of victory. Enter Wieters. His single to right plated two runs to give the Orioles a walk-off win.