Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver used to ask what constitutes a good start for a team. Is it playing well through six games, eight games or 10, 20 or 40?
Well, we can debate that, but it is certainly more than one game. Although once again, the Orioles did win their first game. For the eighth year in a row and for the third straight year with a walk-off victory. Also for the third straight year by a 3-2 score. In their last six opening day extra-inning games, the Orioles are 6-0 and all six went 11 innings. Yep, it’s true.
Per Elias Sports, the Orioles are the first team in major league history with three consecutive opening day walk-off wins.
The Orioles seem to have a tradition of playing well enough to win on opening day and they are now 43-22 all-time in season openers. They are 7-1 in their past eight home openers.
Not all teams play well on opening day. The Twins, for instance. They have now lost nine of their last 10 opening days. That includes losses to the Orioles in 2012, 2016 and again yesterday.
Does anyone remember that time when Dylan Bundy gave up 10 runs in 4 1/3 innings in his first two spring training starts? Yeah, I don’t either.
The right-hander with the four-pitch mix was ace-like in the opener. Seven scoreless innings on 88 pitches with 64 strikes. He got swings and misses on 12 of his 24 sliders. He barely threw his changeup, but got first-pitch strikes on 17 of 26 batters.
He was outstanding on a big stage and that slider look pretty solid.
“Yeah, felt good today. Especially after the first inning. It was sharper and got some swing and misses on it,” Bundy said.
Never one to brag on himself, Bundy wouldn’t bite when he was asked about setting a nice tone for the rest of the rotation.
“I don’t look at it that way, but it’s good to get the season off on the right foot with a W,” he said. “All that matters is wins and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Bundy’s seven innings were the most by an O’s opening day starter since Jake Arrieta pitched seven scoreless frames on opening day 2012. He became the fifth O’s starter to go seven innings or more while allowing zero earned runs in the opener. Jim Palmer did that in 1975 and 1976. Rick Sutcliffe did so in 1992, Jeremy Guthrie in 2011 and Arrieta the following year.
Bundy looks poised to get off to another fast start. Last year, he had an ERA of 1.37 after his first four starts and 2.17 after his first seven games.
Of course, Bundy had some defensive help in shutting down the Twins. None more important than in the top of the second, when O’s right fielder Craig Gentry went over the wall to rob Eddie Rosario of a homer and a 1-0 lead.
“It’s a good feeling,” Gentry said. “To be honest, I had a lot of chills going and kind of wanted to run through a wall or something like that. Pretty enjoyable. I’ve only robbed a few home runs, but that’s up there, for sure.”
He added it was a pretty solid team win.
“Showed the perseverance and fight in us,” Gentry said. “We battled all day. Caleb (Joseph) came up with the big hit. Had a tough ninth inning, but we came back. It shows the resilience of this team and the heart in us.”
For just the second time in team history the Orioles have played extra innings in two straight openers. In 1989-90 they won back-to-back openers in extras over Boston and Kansas City.
Adam Jones won it with his walk-off homer in the 11th. It was his third career walk-off home run and first since June 9, 2012 when he connected off Philadelphia’s B.J. Rosenberg.
Jones made his 11th straight opening day start in center field. He’s the first to make 11 straight in center for one team since Ken Griffey Jr. with Seattle in 1989-99.
Manny Machado was the only player in the game to have two hits. He went 2-for-4 with a double, stolen base and a walk. He’s now batting .289 in his career (13-for-45) with four homers and 11 RBIs versus Twins starter Jake Odorizzi.
The Orioles now have 287 home wins since the 2012 season - that is the most in that span in the American League.