By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun
9:56 PM EDT, April 4, 2011
Brian Roberts has played in eight home openers at Camden Yards, and none has felt quite like this one.
From a rousing ovation for Orioles managers past and present to the excitement from the stands for an undefeated baseball team to Roberts' one big swing that carried the Orioles to a 5-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers, the home opener at Camden Yards was a rousing success.
A sellout crowd of 46,593, which enjoyed a game-time temperature of 76 degrees, watched Jake Arrieta continue the early roll of the Orioles' rotation, Roberts continue his RBI binge with his tie-breaking three-run homer in the fifth inning and the home team continue its winning ways.
The Orioles' 4-0 beginning equals their best start since 1997, and they are one win shy of tying the 1970 club, which won its first five games.
"I don't think anybody's ever had a bad 4-0 start. It's been awesome," said Roberts, who drove a 1-2 pitch from Rick Porcello just over the right-center-field wall with no outs in the fifth. "Certainly, I've been through a lot -- we all know that -- and I think with the expectations coming into this year, to still be able to go out there and do that, I think it's been great for us."
The Orioles are off Tuesday, giving them a little extra time to enjoy their surprising start and ponder how they can build on it when they seemingly lose a key player on a daily basis.
Top starter Jeremy Guthrie, who got things started with eight shutout innings in Friday's series-opening victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, was to spend Monday night in the hospital as he recovered from what the team thinks is a form of pneumonia. He'll miss at least one start, forcing Brad Bergesen into the rotation about four days earlier than originally expected.
But that will be a worry for another day. Orioles manager Buck Showalter told his players to focus on getting away from baseball, but undoubtedly the good sentiment will linger. The Orioles didn't win their fourth game last year until April 27, the 20th game of the season.
"That certainly makes it a little sweeter," Showalter said Monday. "I made a decision that I want to get these guys away. They've been gone, and I can't begin to tell you how hectic [Sunday] night was, the turnaround today coming in here. They've got boxes and are trying to move into places. I think three-fourths of our team is commuting into Baltimore. We put that out there, optional for them. I really want them to kind of relieve some of the pressures they have with everyday life. I think it'll be good for them."
Showalter got the loudest applause during the pre-game pomp and circumstance, receiving a standing ovation as he trotted out of the dugout and up the first base line. He tipped his cap to acknowledge the crowd. Roberts, Markakis, Wieters, Guerrero and rookie starter Zach Britton also got rousing ovations, as did Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver, who threw the ceremonial first pitch to Showalter.
Arrieta, the 25-year-old right-hander who made his big league debut 10 months earlier against the New York Yankees at Camden Yards, was warming up during the ceremonies, but it was hard to block out everything.
"I knew today was going to be tough, emotionally," he said. "I told [bullpen catcher Ronnie Deck] to run in there and grab me a bottle of water when I was warming up because I had the worst dry mouth I think I've ever had. I expected it to be like that. I don't think there's a better feeling in the world than the feeling you get when you toe the rubber Opening Day in your home stadium, just a great feeling from start to finish. The crowd was electric, our team was in it. You know, the emotions were high, but I think that helped. There's really not a better feeling."
Arrieta's wife, Brittany, is pregnant, and the couple will find out Tuesday if they are expecting a boy or a girl.
"I think that's really the only thing that would really trump the type of feeling I had today, but this was a great day," he said.
Arrieta pitched in and out of trouble, retiring the dangerous Miguel Cabrera three times with men on base. Cabrera, who was vomiting during the game (he said it was something he ate) struck out with a man on second in the first inning, flew out with men on second and third in the third and lined out with a man on first in the fifth. Orioles reliever Jason Berken retired Cabrera on a groundout in the eighth as part of his two scoreless innings.
Arrieta allowed one run on six hits and two walks, throwing 99 pitches in six innings. Oriole starters have allowed only two runs and 12 hits in 26 innings this season, and the pitching staff as a whole has surrendered four runs in four games.
"The starting pitching obviously has been everything you could ask for," Showalter said.
The offense, meanwhile, still hasn't really gotten going. While the main offseason storyline was the addition of sluggers Vladimir Guerrero, Derrek Lee and Mark Reynolds, a couple of holdovers have carried the load through four games.
Nick Markakis added three hits Monday to raise his average to .429, and catcher Matt Wieters tacked on two hits and an RBI and scored the Orioles' first run by coming in from third on a wild pitch by Porcello. And, of course, there's Roberts, who has the team's only two homers and has driven in eight of its 17 runs.
His homer Monday came after Felix Pie, starting in left field in place of the injured Luke Scott, led off the fifth with a single and moved to third on J.J. Hardy's double. It appeared that Roberts would get one run in with a sacrifice fly, but the ball kept carrying.
"Some hurricane came, I guess," Roberts said.
The diminutive leadoff man then chuckled, though the homer couldn't have come at a better time, and on a better occasion.
"Robby, for a long time in the Baltimore Orioles' organization, it seems like he's been able on the field to dial up what was needed, whether it's a stolen base or a walk," Showalter said. "He's got just a feel for being able to challenge the moment."