Remembering past opening days while 2020 stays in shutdown mode

The Orioles have made executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias and manager Brandon Hyde available on separate conference calls during the shutdown. What they can’t do is invent answers.

Major League Baseball is pushing back the start of the season. No date has been set for opening day. No assurances have been given that it’s going to happen.

No one in the organization can offer a prediction. They aren’t keeping it a secret. They just don’t know.

Camden-Yards-Before-Opener-Roch.jpgFans should have been filing into Camden Yards today, where temperatures are supposed to reach the low 60s. A rare opportunity to draw a sellout crowd.

Not a hint of rain or snow in the forecast. We’ve seen both in past years.

The first game of the season is a celebration. Last-place predictions are shoved to the side. And the Orioles have gotten pretty good at openers, winning eight in a row before the Yankees ended their streak last year in the Bronx.

The Orioles are 43-23 all-time in openers and 15-4 in their last 19. They posted three straight 3-2 walk-off wins prior to last year.

How’s that for a crazy statistic?

Matt Wieters singled in the ninth inning to score Chris Davis in the 2016 opener against the Twins - a game delayed and interrupted by rain that kept it idle for 2 hours, 51 minutes.

The rally started with two outs when Davis drew a walk against Kevin Jepsen. Mark Trumbo’s ground ball reached center field and Wieters poked a single in the same area.

Trumbo hit a solo home run in the 11th inning to defeat the Blue Jays in 2017. A significant moment for a variety of reasons beyond the timing of it.

The Orioles had re-signed Trumbo to a three-year, $37.5 million deal over the winter. They ended the 2016 season with a wild card loss to the Blue Jays in Toronto - also on a walk-off home run, as you might recall. And Trumbo, who had an RBI double earlier in the game, produced the first walk-off homer on opening day in club history by depositing a 1-2 slider from Jason Grilli into the left field seats.

“I’ll have the windows down going about 5 mph down Pratt (Street) today,” said manager Buck Showalter.

Adam Jones duplicated Trumbo’s feat on opening day 2018 against the Twins, lining a first-pitch fastball from Fernando Rodney into the left field seats in the 11th inning.

“Doesn’t matter how it comes,” Jones said, “as long as you win the game at the end of the day.”

Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop delivered shaving cream pies to Jones during his MASN interview.

Schoop had a chance to be the hero in the 10th, but he grounded into a bases-loaded double play. That rally began with a leadoff walk to pinch-hitter Colby Rasmus.

(I just wanted to remind everyone that Rasmus actually played for the Orioles.)

The Orioles defeated the Indians 6-5 in 13 innings in the 2003 opener. Gary Matthews singled off Jake Westbrook with the bases loaded and two outs after José León singled, Gerónimo Gil reached on an error and Jerry Hairston was hit by a pitch. But the weather overshadowed the result.

It snowed.

Whiteout conditions that caused Ellis Burks’ fly ball in the third inning to disappear in right field.

“I had no idea where the ball was,’’ Hairston said, “so I was like, ‘I hope it doesn’t hit me in the head.’‘’

“I couldn’t even see the hitter, that’s how bad it was,’’ said right fielder Jay Gibbons. “I heard him hit it and that was about it. I saw the umpire looking at me. I think he was waiting for me to make a move. That was crazy.

“That’s probably the first time I ever thought, ‘Don’t hit it to me.’ I mean, I had no chance. I think it might have gone in the stands and come out. Nobody knows. It was a really strange play.’‘

Burks was credited with an RBI single on a fly ball that was just a rumor to him.

“What ball?’’ he said, laughing. “I couldn’t even see it at the plate. I told the umpire I couldn’t see it. I asked him if he could see it and he said, ‘A little.’‘’

Jake Arrieta allowed only two hits in seven scoreless innings in a 4-2 win over the Twins in 2012. Josh Willingham slugged a two-run homer off Troy Patton in the ninth before Jim Johnson recorded the save.

Nelson Cruz hit a tie-breaking home run off the Red Sox’s Jon Lester in the seventh inning to give the Orioles a 2-1 win in the 2014 opener.

Does anyone remember Storm Davis getting the opening day assignment against the Rangers in 1985 at Memorial Stadium? It slipped my mind.

Davis allowed one run in seven innings and Don Aase earned the win while covering the last two frames. Rangers starter Charlie Hough didn’t surrender a hit over six innings, but he walked eight batters and was charged with one earned run and two total.

Eddie Murray hit a two-run homer off Dave Rozema in the eighth inning to break a 2-2 tie.

I can’t get past the idea of George Earl “Storm” Davis being the opening day starter. I followed the team closely and totally forgot.

Davis made 28 starts and 31 appearances that season, registering eight complete games, and went 10-8 with a 4.53 ERA and 1.383 WHIP in 175 innings.

Scott McGregor led the staff with 34 starts, followed by Mike Boddicker with 32 and Dennis Martinez with 31. Ken Dixon made 18 and Mike Flanagan 15.

Sammy Stewart, Brad Havens and Phil Huffman each made one start. And if you remember Huffman, that’s much more impressive than recalling Davis’ opening day assignment.

Huffman went 6-18 with a 5.77 ERA in 31 starts as a Blue Jays rookie in 1977 and didn’t pitch again in the majors until his two appearances with the Orioles in ‘85. He was a second-round draft pick by the Giants who later was included in separate trades involving Vida Blue and Willie Horton.

You’re welcome.

Davis had a nice major league career, though he never lived up to the early comparisons to Jim Palmer. He went 113-96 with a 4.02 ERA in 13 seasons and owns two World Series rings. He won Game 4 with the Orioles in 1983.

The Orioles reacquired Davis from the Royals for catcher Bob Melvin in December 1991 and he returned to the Athletics a year later as a free agent.

Meanwhile, John Means is supposed to receive the opening day assignment in 2020.

Will the Orioles be able to produce another walk-off win?

Will the game still be played in Baltimore, which is a requirement for walk-offs?

Will the season ever begin?

No one in the organization can tell us.

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