It’s been nearly six months since a sea of orange filled Camden Yards, and with the Orioles coming off last season’s improbable ride to the postseason, Friday’s home opener against the Minnesota Twins provided a new brand of optimism.
The sellout crowd of 46,653 — the 22nd straight home-opener sellout in Oriole Park history – seemed more boisterous. The trademark “O” that fans yell during the national anthem seemed slightly louder. And within the walls of the Orioles clubhouse, everyone knew that there was an elevated level of excitement.
“They know what they’re here to deliver,” Orioles manager Buck Showater said before the game when asked about living up to higher expectations.”
And the Orioles did just that, giving the home crowd a memorable 9-5 win over the Twins, highlighted by Chris Davis’ game-winning, eighth-inning grand slam, making him just the fourth player in major league history to homer in the season’s first four games – joining a club that includes only Willie Mays (1971), Mark McGwire (’98) and Nelson Cruz (2011).
With his five-RBI day Friday, Davis now has 16 RBIs in the first four games of the season.
Down 5-4, the Orioles scored five runs in the eighth after the Twins intentionally walked Nick Markakis with runners on second and third with one out to face Adam Jones. Jones singled off reliever Casey Fienhome to plate Nolan Reimold and tie the game
That set up Davis’ first-pitch slam off left-hander Tyler Robertson, which sent the sellout crowd into an uproar.
Davis now has 11 homers in his past 11 games dating back to last season and he has homered in 10 of his past 11 games.
Orioles right-hander Jake Arrieta struggled in his third straight home opener start, allowing five runs on seven hits over five-plus innings, striking out five and walking two. While he looked strong at times, including during a 17-pitch first inning that included 14 strikes, he also couldn’t get key outs when he needed them the most.
The Twins scored their go-ahead run in the sixth inning, taking a 5-4 lead on Brian Dozier’s out-out single off reliever Troy Patton. Patton entered the game for Arrieta, who left runners at first and second with no outs in the inning after a leadoff walk to Ryan Doumit and a single by Trevor Plouffe.
The Orioles tied the game 4-4 in the fifth inning when Adam Jones hit a run-scoring double over Twins center fielder Aaron Hicks, scoring Markakis from first base to cut the Orioles’ deficit to one. Jones moved to third on the throw home, which skipped past catcher Ryan Doumit, and he scored on Davis’ sacrifice fly to center to tie the game.
Arrieta allowed four runs in the top of the fourth. He was one strike away from getting out of the inning, opening Chris Parmelee with a 1-2 count before Parmelee slapped a full-count, two-out single up the middle that tied the game at one.
The Orioles squandered a huge opportunity against Twins starter Liam Hendriks in the bottom half of the inning.
After Jones and Davis opened the inning with back-to-back singles and Matt Wieters walked to load the bases, J.J. Hardy hit a ball to Escobar at short. Escobar threw to third for a force out, but Davis was called safe after third-base umpire Joe Cuzzi ruled that third baseman Plouffe never touched the bag.
That plated Jones to cut the lead to 4-2, but the Orioles then stranded the bases loaded with no outs.
The Orioles took a 1-0 lead in the first on Manny Machado’s single up the middle, scoring Nate McLouth from second.