For the first time since the 2010 season, the Orioles lost on opening day. In their first opening day game in the Bronx since 1962, the New York Yankees scored three runs in the first inning and beat the Orioles 7-2. That snapped Baltimore’s eight-game win streak in openers.
A few impressions from Game 1 of 162.
The defense was solid: This will need to stay this way with a lineup that appears will struggle to score runs. Run prevention will be big and the O’s can’t give away as many outs as they did last year. Yesterday, they turned two double plays in the infield in the first three innings. Shortstop Richie Martin started both 6-4-3 double plays. He made the routine plays which represented a good start for him that he needs to keep going at short.
In the outfield, Joey Rickard ran in from right field to make a diving catch in the fifth to rob Gary Sánchez of a hit. Left fielder Dwight Smith Jr. tracked a few balls down on the warning track and made a leaping catch against the wall in the last of the first.
Catcher Jesús Sucre either got crossed up or just missed a pitch in the last of the fifth and two runners moved up, but they were stranded on the bases. The Orioles walked too many batters with eight and allowed the Yankees two gift runs in that fifth frame, but that was not about defense.
The Orioles will shift a lot: We saw this start in spring training with a huge number of defensive shifts against both opponent left and right-handed hitters. That continued yesterday and no doubt will throughout the season. It can be frustrating for fans, as it was in the first inning yesterday when both Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton singled to the right side to foil the shift. Did they just get fortunate or were the Yankees batters good enough to hit it where the defense was not playing? Either way it worked and Luke Voit followed with a three-run homer that put the Orioles in the early hole. That leads us to our next point.
Too many bad pitches: O’s pitchers allowed 234 homers last year to lead the American League. Many of those longballs - as many are every night in the majors - came off pitches that were in very bad spots. So it was in the first inning yesterday when Andrew Cashner left an 87 mph slider in the middle of the plate on a 3-1 pitch and Voit blasted it 112 mph to score three runs.
Jonathan Villar on the bases: It was a mixed day for the Orioles second baseman who should have found a way to avoid getting hit by that groundball off Trey Mancini’s bat in the first inning. But he did get hit and that resulted in the third out and not a two on, two out situation with a chance to gain an early lead.
But before that, Villar was dancing around in getting a lead off the first base bag, drawing three pickoff throws from Masahiro Tanaka and seeming to serve as a distraction for Tanaka when he was facing Mancini. Villar stole 21 bases in 54 O’s games last year. That projects to 63 over 162 games and he might need to get 60 or more bags to help this offense.
Yesterday’s lineup showed Martin batting ninth and then Cedric Mullins, Smith and Villar topping the lineup to provide four speed guys in a row. This team will need to scratch out some runs on the bases in 2019.
Trey’s day: Mancini went 3-for-4 with two singles, a run scored and an RBI double to center. Thinking back to his struggles early last year, it was a great start at the plate for him. Mancini is such a great teammate and, at just 27, wants to make himself available as a leader to his younger teammates. They could hardly have a better one. For a lineup lacking some punch, Mancini’s bat will be big in the middle of this order.
Davis bats seventh: While it was frustrating at times last year to see Chris Davis continue to bat fifth while he kept struggling, he batted seventh yesterday. We’ll see if it stays that way, but perhaps under this new O’s management, Davis will have to hit his way back into the middle of the order. If he can do it. Right now there is no reason to bat him much higher and he was pinch-hit for with left-hander Aroldis Chapman pitching in the ninth.
Davis, who struck out three times before he was hit for, batted seventh 18 times last season and hit seventh in 13.8 percent of his 2018 plate appearances. He showed promise late in spring training by hitting balls to left-center and going well with the pitch, but he didn’t put the ball in play yesterday.