Kevin Cowherd: Orioles need to bottle this Opening Day performance

Team can enjoy similar excitement with consistent results like Friday's win over Twins

April 06, 2012|Kevin Cowherd

The first lunatic trespasser of the season jumped on the field in the fourth inning and led the cops on the usual merry chase until one of them turned into Ray Lewis and took him down hard.

What a charmer this rail-hopper was.

He was shirtless and wore short shorts right out of the Richard Simmons Collection. Oh, and he wore a cape, too. Really. At first I swore it was Kegasus, so beered up he thought it was the Preakness, except I couldn't tell if the guy had a mullet or not.

Other than that, the Orioles' season-opening 4-2 win over the Minnesota Twins on Friday went off without too many problems, if you don't count that little heart attack Troy Patton gave them in the ninth inning.

Weather? Perfect.

Fans? Totally into it.

It was sunny and 59 degrees at game-time and Camden Yards, with a sell-out crowd of 46,773, looked about as perfect as a ballpark can ever look.

And if you're a team that hasn't had a winning season since the Clinton administration, it was nice to start off so well in front of the home fans who, you may have heard, are not exactly brimming with optimism about the Orioles this year.

But that's gloom and doom for another day.

Friday, the atmosphere at Camden Yards was so electric Buck Showalter sounded like he wanted to bottle it.

"It was great," the Orioles manager said. "I'm an old fuddy-duddy. I get emotional a couple times a day, seeing how much it means to the people in Baltimore. ... I'll be the first to tell you it gives me a lot more responsibility and anxiety about delivering what they deserve — for all of us.

"Our players, they get a taste of it, they talk about it. They know what this fan base is like. And it's up to us to tap deeper into it."

You want to give these fans hope? Wins like this would help, big-time.

There was Jake Arrieta, throwing a two-hitter over seven innings after he was shut down for the year last August and had surgery to remove bone spurs in his right elbow.

(He showed one of the spurs to reporters after the surgery. It was the size of a big peanut. Or a ping-pong ball, depending on who you talked to. Try throwing 95 miles per hour or snapping off curveballs with that baby floating around in your arm.)

Then there was Nick Markakis, flashing some much-needed power against the Twins, driving in three runs with a homer and a triple and showing everyone he's back from January surgery for abdominal tears.

(Markakis didn't bring in any stomach tissue for the media to look at, sorry.)

Anway, it was nice to see familiar names like Arrieta and Markakis come up big, because there's still very much of a who-are-these-guys quality to this Orioles team.

Look at the roster turnover they've undergone since Dan Duquette took over as vice president of baseball operations last fall.

Only 11 players who were on last year's 25-man Opening Day roster were with the team yesterday.

You have six new pitchers (Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Tsuyoshi Wada, Luis Ayala, Matt Lindstrom andDarren O'Day) most Orioles fans wouldn't recognize if they sat down to dinner with them.

Those weren't boos you heard when the Orioles were introduced in pre-game ceremonies yesterday — those were cries of "Who?"

But, for better or worse, this is the team Orioles fans will be following this season. And if the Orioles can play like they did Friday, if they can defy the oddsmakers and naysayers and finish close to .500 — Duquette's stated goal — then the fans will be back at Camden Yards and you'll see all the atmosphere you ever want to see.

"The thing is, we want to maintain the atmosphere," center fielder Adam Jones said. "If we can play like this in front of a crowd like this every night, there's no telling what we can do. But we have to do that."

Showalter, the eternal optimist, insists they can.

"We can do this, very competitively, if we can get games like the starting pitcher did today and where we have multiple contributors every night," he said.

We'll see if they can do it.

This was only one game. Only one win. And with all due respect to Showalter, getting good pitching and major contributions from different players has sort of been the problem with this team.

But that's more gloom and doom for another day, too.

Enjoy the win, Orioles fans. It was a great day at Camden Yards.

A great way to start the season.

kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

Listen to Kevin Cowherd Tuesdays at 7:20 a.m. on 105.7 The Fan's "The Norris and Davis Show."

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