BALTIMORE — To Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie, it felt like Opening Day again. To new manager Buck Showalter, it felt like business as usual even though he hadn’t managed a team to a victory in almost four years. And to the announced 16,723 in attendance Tuesday night at Camden Yards, it actually felt like the start, albeit small, of something Orioles fans can feel good about.
The Buck Showalter era in Baltimore began with a rousing ovation when he sprinted out of the dugout with the lineup card and ended with Alfredo Simon striking out Howie Kendrick. In between, the Orioles played one of their better all-around games of the season in beating the Los Angeles Angels, 6-3, to give Showalter, a former Mississippi State star, his first win since Sept. 29, 2006, when he was managing the Texas Rangers.
“It’s not imperative, but I’m excited about it and I hope the players are,” Showalter said. “You always like to end up on the right side of it, regardless of the situation. But what comes first? That’s the old chemistry and culture and whatever you want to throw on there. What comes first? I’ve got news for you: W’s come first. It certainly helps a lot of things carry a little more importance.”
It was just the Orioles’ fourth win in 18 games since the All-Star break, and it came courtesy of one of their best efforts of the season. As Showalter said to start his post-game news conference, Jeremy Guthrie set the tone, allowing three earned runs over seven innings in his latest strong outing. The bullpen retired six of the seven hitters it faced, with Michael Gonzalez doing the bulk of the work and leaving to a partial standing ovation.
Luke Scott slammed a go-ahead two-run homer in the sixth, and Josh Bell notched his first career RBIs with a two-run double later that inning. Catcher Matt Wieters had three hits and two RBIs to continue his recent resurgence.
Capping it all, the Orioles (33-73) even played some strong defense with the much-maligned Felix Pie making a couple of running catches in left field and Ty Wigginton scooping two throws out of the dirt at first base.
“It felt like a nice Opening Day for us,” said Guthrie (5-11), who has a 1.98 ERA and two of the Orioles’ four-wins since the All-Star break. “It’s a long process, and (Showalter) has identified that. He said this is not going to be an overnight thing, but we’ve got guys here, and he has made that very clear. He has said, ‘I believe in a lot of guys here, and we are going to figure things out and we are going in the right direction.’ And that adds a lot of excitement.”
Several Orioles said it was no coincidence they played well, citing the buzz in the crowd and the pre-game message delivered by their new manager during his first team meeting with his new club.
“It definitely started out here in the clubhouse,” said Gonzalez, who gave up one hit in 1 2/3 innings and then watched Simon record the final out. “Buck talked to us for a little bit, and just those 10 to 15 minutes that he talked to us, I individually believe in what he has to say and believe in his philosophies. I’m all for it 100 percent. The guy is a winner. He wants to go out and win. It put a little fire under most of the guys here.”
Facing a right-hander making just his second big league start, the Orioles’ offense didn’t really get going until the sixth, after Trevor Bell left the game. With the Orioles trailing 2-1, the only damage coming on Kendrick’s two-run homer off Guthrie in the fifth inning, Wigginton drew a one-out walk, prompting Angels manager Mike Scioscia to remove his starter.
Francisco Rodriguez (0-2) came in and watched Scott turn around his 3-2 fastball and send it 422 feet to right field. When his team-leading 19th homer cleared the wall, Scott flipped his bat and Showalter lightly clapped his hands.
“It was a good night, a lot of energy. You are just trying to have fun out there, play the game with intensity and enjoy the game,” Scott said.
“It’s been kind of a hyped event. Everyone’s been talking about it. It’s finally here. Everyone, including us, the players, we want to see a change as far as results. And you know, we look at it as a fresh start. And that’s how you have to look at it every day.”
The Orioles added to their lead later in the inning when Bell hit the two-run double, his first career extra-base hit.
“It was definitely an exciting day for me,” Bell said. “Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve always said that I wanted to help contribute to a win. It feels good to help us get one.”
Showalter stood on the top step of the dugout, shaking hands with the players after the final out. About 2½ hours earlier, he got a rousing ovation when snippets of his introductory news conference were shown on the stadium video board. The clip ended with Showalter saying, “Let’s quit talking about it and get started.”
The Orioles did, and it couldn’t have gone much better.
“I think everybody, including me, is thirsting for good things to happen,” Showalter said. “It’s one day, one game, but it was fun.”
Jeff Zrebiec/The Baltimore Sun