BALTIMORE — There will be no early proclamations, no wild “Curse of the Andino” celebrations on the field after two impressive wins to kick off the 2012 season.
These Baltimore Orioles have been through this before — plenty of times — a quick start only to have it followed by a humbling collapse and inevitable disastrous season.
So Saturday night’s 8-2 beating of the Minnesota Twins that featured another superb starting pitching performance as well as three solo homers from the meat of the order and a four-hit night from backup catcher turned designated hitter Ronny Paulino — yes, Ronny Paulino — will be accepted for what is was: A second fine game in a marathon of a season.
“It’s two out of 162, but it’s a good way to start,” said Orioles Manager Buck Showalter. “We had good starts to start the season last year, so we’ll see if it continues.”
Last year, the Orioles began 6-1, before dropping eight in a row on their way to a 14th consecutive sub-.500 campaign. That early surge, though, didn’t feature two starting pitchers beginning the year with consecutive seven-inning outings.
You have to go all the way back to 2001 to find consecutive starts to open an Orioles’ season that lasted at least seven innings (Pat Hentgen, Sidney Ponson and Jason Johnson all did it).
On Friday’s opening day, Jake Arrieta threw seven scoreless innings in a 4-2 win over the Twins. Saturday, Tommy Hunter (1-0) tossed seven-plus innings, allowing six hits, one walk and two runs (both unearned). When he walked off the field in the eighth with the bases loaded and no outs, the announced Camden Yards crowd of 31,532 gave him a standing ovation.
Hunter was asked after the game if he savored that moment.
“I got 33, 34 more starts, I hope,” Hunter said. “After that, we’ll look back and see how it is.”
So the tone has been set. Two games don’t make a season. Especially ones against a Twins club that was the worst in the American League last year.
Minnesota did plenty of self-inflicted damage, with left fielder Josh Willingham committing two errors that led to two runs and the Twins failing to execute several other makeable plays. Twins starter Francisco Liriano (0-1) struck out the side in the first, but was tagged for six runs (five earned) in four innings.
The Orioles (2-0) have now beaten the Twins six consecutive times — dating from last August — by a collective score of 36-8.
“They’re not going to make many [mistakes] and you’re not going to get a lot in the major leagues, but when they do, you better take advantage and not assume anything,” Showalter said. “It’s one thing to get the opportunities and another to take advantage of it.”
— Baltimore Sun