NEW YORK - Signs that it wasn’t going to be the Orioles’ day included a ground ball headed to right field that struck a runner’s leg and the moment when four pitchers began to do stretching exercises in the bullpen while in a rush to get loose.
David Hess was included in the group. He’s supposed to start Monday night in Toronto, but plans can be blown up with one rally and a game already slipping away.
The 2019 season begins with a 7-2 loss to the Yankees in the Bronx, the first game for Brandon Hyde as major league manager ending like so many others last summer under his predecessor.
The defeat breaks the Orioles’ string of eight straight opening day victories.
Hyde showed up at the ballpark around 7 a.m., “super early” as he put it. He’s never experienced a day like it with the added responsibilities of a manager leaking past the field and dugout.
“It was a lot of talking, a lot of talking, more than I’m used to,” he said. “I’m used to being ultra-prepared and preparing and sitting there and going through the game with Joe (Maddon) or coaching the bases. This was a little more communicating with everybody and not doing as much physical work, but it was a great day and I wish we could have come out on the other side. A great experience.”
The emotions kicked in a little more at certain times, including the introductions and exchange of lineup cards with Yankees manager Aaron Boone.
“A little bit when they say your name and you run out there,” he said. “That kind of hits you a little bit. Shaking Boonie’s hand at home plate, those type of things.”
“He had great energy the whole game, even when we were down,” said Trey Mancini. “If something good happened, he’s right there, pumped up, and it was very, very loose and a very calm atmosphere out there. A guy you’d want to run through a brick wall for.”
Jonathan Villar collected the season’s first hit with a two-out single in the first inning, but he ran into Mancini’s grounder for the final out. Rio Ruiz had the first RBI with a two-out single in the fourth that scored Mancini, who reached on an infield hit off Masahiro Tanaka and advanced on Miguel Andújar’s throwing error.
The Yankees led 4-0 before Rio delivered in his first opening day game. Luke Voit hit a three-run homer off Andrew Cashner in the first and an infield single and two walks with no outs in the third were followed by Andújar’s double play grounder.
The rally in the first inning started with back-to-back singles to right-center field by Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, who were a combined 4-for-30 against Cashner coming into today’s game.
Mike Wright entered the game with no outs in the fifth after back-to-back walks. He issued his own free pass to Stanton and hit Voit on the elbow to force in a run.
Andújar followed with a sacrifice fly to the left field track for a 6-1 lead as Hess began to warm.
Two runs in the inning without a hit.
Cashner was charged with six runs and six hits with four walks and three strikeouts. He threw 75 pitches, 42 for strikes.
“I thought I kind of got behind there in the beginning, can’t really hang that slider in that spot, but I think if I don’t give up the home run there it could be a different ballgame, for sure,” Cashner said. “I think the four walks really hurt me, but other than that I thought I did some things really well today. I thought the spin on both of my breaking balls has been a lot better, so I’m happy where I’m at.
“Can I get better? Yeah, but we’ll see where I’m at.”
“I thought Cash threw the ball good,” Hyde said. “Both Stanton and Judge, a couple of inside-out singles. You’ll give those singles to those guys. Make a pitch to Voit, who makes him pay, but after that I thought he threw the ball great. I thought it was the best stuff that he had had all through camp, too. But from our whole pitching staff today, just too many walks. Too many baserunners allowed. Just tough to win that way.”
Cashner didn’t blame the cold weather for the lapses in control. No one was cursing the elements today, just the outcome.
“Take away the two walks in the fifth and I thought some of those other ... I thought I had a lot of balls really close on the plate that could have gone either way,” Cashner said.
Cashner showed some frustration on Gary Sánchez’s single in the first inning on a ground ball through the vacated area on the right side of the infield. No one there to get in front of it.
“It’s tough, but it is what it is,” Cashner said. “Make better pitches and maybe they don’t go that way. I don’t know.
“It’s tough. As the game kind of evolves, the shift evolves. I guess the numbers kind of go one way and it is what it is.”
“I thought we had some unlucky breaks there,” Hyde said. “For the most part we’re going to give singles the other way to Stanton and Judge and Gary Sánchez, guys like that that can hurt you and do real damage. They found some holes against us today. Over time that will go the other way, I would believe, and some balls go through the other way on us today and hopefully we can take advantage of that offensively at some point also.”
Hess worked two innings and threw 42 pitches, the last 13 to Sánchez that resulted in a dropped popup by catcher Jesús Sucre and an unorthodox double play. Hess apparently remains available for Monday night.
Greg Bird homered in the eighth on an 0-2 pitch from Paul Fry to increase the lead to 7-2.
The Orioles drove Tanaka from the game in the sixth on Mancini’s RBI double to center field, the ball clearing center fielder Brett Gardner’s head and scoring Dwight Smith Jr.
Hyde’s emphasis on defense paid off with two double plays turned in the first three innings - 6-4-3 and 5-4-3 - Smith’s catch against the fence to deny Andújar in the first and Joey Rickard’s diving catch in shallow right to rob Sánchez in the fifth.
Sucre was charged with a passed ball later in the inning. His dropped popup in the seventh on an infield fly, resulting in a 2-5-4-6-4 putout.
Maybe he didn’t get the memo.
Drew Jackson made his major league debut in the eighth, pinch-hitting for Smith, and grounded into a force against former Orioles closer Zack Britton. Richie Martin went 0-for-3, but he also started a double play.
Hyde kept monitoring his younger players and how they were handling the atmosphere.
“The dugout seemed a little quieter than normal, and I think that will loosen up and guys will start getting a little bit of a rhythm and a feel and, I want to believe, gain confidence,” Hyde said. “And that comes with experience and it comes with time and games played and success and all sorts of things.
“I thought the dugout was good. I felt like it was quieter than normal because of some jitters from some younger players.”
Did those jitters impact the play on the field?
“I thought we played good defensively and I thought we competed at the plate,” Hyde said. “We faced Tanaka, Britton, (Aroldis) Chapman and (Adam) Ottavino, and those guys are where they are because of what they’ve done in their careers. They’ve had a lot of success and a lot of innings. So I thought we competed at the plate against those guys. Just came up short.”
Mancini had hits in his first three at-bats before grounding out.
“I felt pretty good out there,” he said. “With opening day comes some nerves and everything like that. You have to find a way to harness it in a good way and remain calm. It’s not easy. The main objective out of all this is to get a win, and unfortunately couldn’t do it today. That’s a great team over there, a great lineup, and they showed it.”
Being down three runs only four batters into the game isn’t an ideal way to kick off the season.
It’s not great, but I wouldn’t say deflating,” Mancini said. “It’s not like everybody’s like, ‘Oh, crap, he hit a three-run homer.’ In a couple of their wild card games there have been some home runs early on and you bounce back. That’s baseball.
“We’ve been down before and have come back, but not an ideal way to start the game off. Great lineup, can’t make too many mistakes off those guys on both sides.”
“Everybody wants to get off to a good start,” Hyde said. “I’m sure he’s hoping to get a better game offensively, but they pitched him well. I thought he had a couple of calls that didn’t go his way, but it’s part of the game and you come back in a couple of days and do it again.”
Orioles pitching issued eight walks after registering the sixth-highest total in the majors last season at 589. They also hit a batter.
Hyde will dissect the performances, emphasizing the good over the bad, and take another crack at it Saturday afternoon. So far it’s only one of 162.
There will be better days.
Hyde believes it no matter how many times he’s reminded of the imposing clubs within his division. The amount of games played against them. The discrepancies in payroll.
“I look at it as a challenge,” Hyde said. “I’ve never backed down from anything. I think it’s awesome, to be honest with you. It’s great, great competition. This is the atmosphere you want to play in, this is what you want to feel on a nightly basis, and that’s how you’re going to get better. That’s how you’re going to be able to look in the mirror and see who you are as a player. These are the kind of places you want to go in and compete.
“I love the fact that we’re in the AL East and I love the fact that there’s some really good clubs in our division and we’ve just got to grow and get better.”
“Look at our division,” Mancini said. “There are some great teams there. You’re lying to yourself if you say anything differently. We’re not going to go out there and play scared or anything else. We all see ourselves as major league baseball players, and that’s what they are. So we’re going to go out there and play hard and try to compete with these guys.”