The Baltimore Orioles opened up the 2019 season with a 7-2 loss at the hands of the New York Yankees in the Bronx.
Andrew Cashner, staring for the Orioles, allowed six earned runs on six hits, four walks, and three strikeouts over four innings. David Hess (2.0 IP, 2 BB, 2 K) and Mike Wright (1.0 IP, 1 BB, 1 K) did not allow a run in their appearances. Trey Mancini (3-for-4, RBI double) and Rio Ruiz (1-for-3, single) drove in the Baltimore runs. Jonathan Villar joined Mancini as the only Oriole to record multi-hit games.
The Orioles have an off-day on Friday before wrapping up the Yankees series with 1:05 pm starts on both Saturday and Sunday. Before the attention turns to Nate Karns being the “opener” for Saturday’s game, here’s three things we learned from the first Orioles game that counts in 2019.
1. Walks troublesome for all arms used
No matter who was pitching on Thursday afternoon, the Orioles could not stop issuing walks, finishing the game with eight free passes. The Yankees only had one more hit than bases on-balls. Cashner allowed half of these walks, and two of those runners scored after Wright came on in relief during the fifth inning. Paul Fry walked one in his inning of work along with allowing a solo home run from Greg Bird.
The good news is only two runs scored off the eight walks given up. In the third inning after Cashner loaded the bases by giving up a single to Aaron Judge and walks to Giancarlo Stanton and Luke Voit, he got Miguel Andujar to ground into a 6-4-3 double play followed by a fly-out by Gary Sanchez. Wright came in from the bullpen with no outs in the fifth. Brett Gardner and Judge were on-base via walk. After Wright walked Stanton and hit Voit in the arm, he retired the side.
The Orioles should consider themselves lucky that more damage wasn’t done. The pitchers involved and the defense deserve credit for minimizing the damage, but you would like to see a veteran like Cashner have better command at the start of innings. It isn’t April yet and there’s something to be said for the pitchers still developing a relationship with recently-acquired catchers Jesus Sucre and Pedro Severino. But if the command problems continue, the Orioles thin pitching depth will be exposed quickly.
2. Trey Mancini and Jonathan Villar pace offense
One of the positives from Thursday’s game was watching two “faces” of this young Orioles team have solid days at the plate. Along with Mancini’s aforementioned 3-for-4 line, Villar went 2-for-3. He recorded the first Baltimore hit of 2019 in the first inning with two outs. Unfortunately, Villar was struck by a bouncing ground ball hit by Mancini to end the Orioles half of the first.
Mancini and Villar make up two of the five names in this year’s Opening Day lineup that played on the big-league roster last season. These two are expected to be two leaders on this club. Although Mancini is only entering his third full major league season, he got to play with and learn from guys like Adam Jones. Villar has six seasons in the big leagues under his belt and knows all-too-well what a rebuild process like this looks like. Villar was on those terrible 2013 and 2014 Astros teams that were in the early phases of their rebuild with Mike Elias and Sig Mejdal on-staff (see butt slide video).
It’s likely going to be a long season for the Orioles, but it would be great if guys like Mancini and Villar have solid seasons. Villar is a name that could be shopped around to contenders looking for a speedy infielder. Mancini is a great young player to build a competitive team around. Productive seasons from these two will benefit the Orioles, both this year and in the long run.
3. Chris Davis starts 2019 still looking broken
Fresh off the heals of .168, 192-strikeout 2018 season, Chris Davis began the 2019 campaign looking like, well…just like he did last year. He struck out in all three of his at-bats, twice swinging and once looking. Renato Nunez pinch-hit for Davis and lined out to Gardner in center-field for the second out of the ninth inning.
It’s interesting that Brandon Hyde listed Mancini as the designated hitter with Dwight Smith Jr. in left field for Opening Day. The explosiveness of the Yankees lineup most likely played into that decision, and Smith Jr. backed up to the warning track at least three times to make crucial catches.
Ever since Elias took over as the Orioles general manager and hired Hyde, one of the top questions directed at these two men is how long of a leash Davis will have coming off the worst offensive season in major league history. It’s no secret that Mancini naturally plays first base, but he won’t get consistent time there unless Davis is either moved, benched, released, or sent to the minors.
Like I’ve said before, the Orioles have a group of players who could platoon the DH role, especially with Mark Trumbo on the 60-day injured list. The injury to Trumbo could actually turn out to be a good thing for the Orioles, because it makes it easier to give Mancini time at first base with Davis being the DH. If Trumbo were healthy, the Orioles wouldn’t have the flexibility to play Mancini at first with Davis still in the lineup.
The only problem with using Davis as the DH is, the umpires might have to allow the Orioles to change the name of the position specifically for Davis – DO (designated out).
Highlight of the game
The fifth inning added two runs onto the Yankees lead, but it could have been more if it weren’t for Joey Rickard‘s glove. Sanchez lifted a ball to right field that looked to be dropping quickly. Rickard got a great hop on the ball and sprinted forward before diving and catching the ball with his right arm fully stretched. All runners stayed, and then Wright struck out Bird looking on a 2-2 count.
Image Credit: Julio Cortez/Associated Press