The ballpark is as loud as expected tonight for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.
Manager Buck Showalter always draws the loudest and most prolonged ovation. The place also erupted for J.J. Hardy, who signed his three-year, $40 million extension yesterday.
Players not on the ALCS roster - Matt Wieters, Steve Clevenger, Quintin Berry and Ryan Webb - were introduced before the game. Wieters tried to catch the ceremonial first pitch from former Orioles first baseman Boog Powell, but the ball skipped through his legs.
They’re both a little rusty.
Chris Tillman threw 15 pitches, 12 for strikes, in the first inning. Lorenzo Cain reached on an infield hit with two outs, but he never attempted to steal, and Eric Hosmer struck out.
Billy Butler led off the second with a single, but Tilllman retired the next three batters. He’s thrown 25 pitches, 20 for strikes.
Before tonight, Billy Butler was a career .313/.366/.545 hitter in 54 games against the Orioles, with 17 doubles, 10 home runs and 38 RBIs in 211 at-bats. He hit .318/.371/.561 in 26 games at Camden Yards, with six doubles, six homers and 17 RBIs in 107 at-bats.
Steve Pearce is drawing lots of interest from the national media for his decision to turn down a waiver claim from the Blue Jays and re-sign with the Orioles. He’s the regular first baseman now, an integral part of the team, and batting fifth tonight against Royals starter James Shields.
“One of the reasons I decided to stay was obviously I love everybody here. I love the organization, I love everything about it,” he said.
“When (Chris) Davis went down, the opportunity finally arose for me, so it was a no-brainer just staying here. Nothing against Toronto. They’re a great team. It would have been fun to go over and compete against Baltimore. But here is where I wanted to play. But for me, it was about the opportunity to play every day.”
Pearce and Nelson Cruz, who joined him in the interview area before the game, didn’t feel extra tension with the uncertain start time and rain forcing the cancellation of batting practice.
“I think we go in and work out, take the swings in the cage,” Cruz said. “Whatever you do in the regular days there’s rain, you’re going to do it here. I think we’re doing pretty good to stay focused in this situation and I think we’re going to do the same thing today.”
Cruz was asked whether it would be a disappointment to get this far and not reach the World Series. Seems pretty obvious to me.
“We get to this spot, you want to make it all the way,” he said. “I don’t say disappointed because we’ve come a long way in the organization, the whole team, but no doubt we have the chance to go all the way and I think we have the tools that we need.”
Pearce was challenged to name the difference between the 2012 and 2014 playoff teams.
“From what I remember, they had a really good bullpen, also,” he said. “Offensively, defensively, we’re a complete team. And I think we bring a little bit more offense than we did in 2012. I’m not really sure of the numbers. But both of them were good teams.
“We won the division pretty easily this year. I’d say maybe offensively, I think we’re a lot stronger than we were in ‘12.”
Update: Alcides Escobar homered with one out in the third inning to break a scoreless tie.
Escobar hit only three home runs during the regular season, but he pulled a 90 mph fastball into the left field seats.
It got worse. The Royals loaded the bases with two outs and Alex Gordon cleared them with a bloop double to right field. He took third on Jonathan Schoop’s error.
Tillman threw 34 pitches in the inning.
The Orioles got a run back in the bottom of the third on Nick Markakis’ leadoff double and a one-out RBI single by Adam Jones.
Jones is 5-for-39 with two RBIs in the postseason.
Update II: Tillman is charged with five runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings, with two walks, three strikeouts and a home run. He threw 84 pitches, 55 strikes.
This is Tillman’s shortest outing since he lasted one inning in Texas on June 5 - 22 starts ago.
Cain led off the fifth with a double and later scored on Billy Butler’s sacrifice fly off Tommy Hunter.
Update III: The Orioles scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth and trail 5-4.
Nelson Cruz had an RBI double, making him 8-for-15 with two home runs and six RBIs in the 2014 postseason. The Orioles loaded the bases and Ryan Flaherty delivered a two-run single into right field.
Kevin Gausman has entered the game.