With the Orioles just a heartbeat away from an Opening Day win over a division rival on Tuesday, closer Mike Gonzalez broke our orange and black hearts, and the good guys walked away with a 4-3 loss following a Rays walk-off win.
It’s one of those moments you like to pretend never happened; if you looked at the top of The Sun‘s game story you might even believe that was the case. Online (and in print?) the score stayed where it was supposed to when Gonzalez entered the game: Orioles 3 – Rays 2.
I’m used to painful losses, but did it have to happen so quickly? Isn’t the team supposed to build up some false hope before letting us down (see, for example, 2005)?
When it was over, and I had finished wiping away the tears with my Orioles Snuggie (see, it’s useful even on warm days), I started searching for an Opening Day precedent for Gonzalez’s blown save. It appears the O’s new closer made history on Tuesday.
Never before in the post-St. Louis Browns era (1954-present) had an Orioles reliever blown a save on Opening Day, even before the save became an official statistic in 1969. I could find no evidence of that kind of season-opening letdown on Baseball Reference. However, I did find some interesting one-run Opening Day results.
Here are seven Opening Day games that provided their own unique form of drama for the Birds.
First, the painful losses:
1977: Rangers 2 – Orioles 1
Jim Palmer takes the loss after pitching 10 innings.
1969: Red Sox 5 – Orioles 4
Mike Adamson, the Orioles’ sixth pitcher on the day, walks four batters in two innings and takes the loss when pinch hitter Dalton Jones plates Tony Conigliaro on a sac fly in the top of the 12th inning.
1962: 7-6 to the Yankees
The Orioles score two in the top of the eighth inning to take a one-run lead on the Yankees only to have New York score two runs of their own off Hal Brown in the bottom half of the frame. One of those runs came on a Mickey Mantle lead-off home run.
And then there are the joyous late-inning victories:
1987: Orioles 2 – Rangers 1
Orioles Magic is alive and well in Baltimore as Larry Sheets scores pinch runner Rene Gonzalez on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth inning. Gonzalez is saved the role of the goat when an error by Texas first baseman Pete O’Brien foils Greg Harris’ successful pick-off attempt. Rangers manager Bobby Valentine is not pleased.
1974: Orioles 3 – Tigers 2
Al Bumbry reached base on an error to lead off the eighth inning. The Weaver-led Orioles put down a sacrifice bunt to advance Bumbry, who eventually scores on a Don Baylor single. Jim Palmer gets the win for the Birds.
1960: Orioles 3 – Senators 2
A two-out double by left fielder Gene Woodling in the bottom of the seventh inning scores center fielder Jackie Brandt. Brooks Robinson has the game’s only home run.
1957: Orioles 7 – Senators 6
Carl Powis, nicknamed Jug, played only 15 games in the major leagues, but he made sure his first game was a memorable one. After doubling earlier in the game, Powis hits an 11th inning sacrifice fly in Washington to bring home Dick Williams with what would turn out to be the winning run.