ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Over the last few days of spring training, Baltimore Orioles Manager Buck Showalter mentioned often how his team had been long ready to break camp, to get out of their spring training home and play games that actually meant something.
In wearing out reigning American League Cy Young winner David Price in Tuesday’s opener against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Orioles showed just how ready they were.
The Orioles chased Price from the game in the seventh inning, then orchestrated a two-out, five-run rally against reliever Jake McGee for a 7-4 win against the Rays, a team they outlasted to earn an American League wild-card berth last season.
Coming off their best season in 15 years — it included 93 wins and ended one win shy of beating the New York Yankees in the ALDS — the Orioles upstaged one of the game’s best pitchers and displayed their explosive offense.
The 3-4-5 hitters — Adam Jones, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis — drove in all seven runs and combined for two homers, six hits and five runs scored.
The trio was particularly effective in the seventh inning.
Jones laced an 0-2 pitch to the left-center field gap for a two-run double. Wieters was intentionally walked. Davis then clobbered a first-pitch delivery from McGee for a three-run homer into the right-field seats to silence the sellout crowd of 34,078.
Wieters was 2-for-3 with the home run and double against Price, plus he drew an impressive 13-pitch walk against the left-hander in the third.
Opening Day starter Jason Hammel, who began his career with the Rays but did not materialize into a top-line starter with them, made easy work of his former team.
Hammel, making his first career opening day start, held the Rays to three runs on three hits over six innings with a home run and a walk.
It was Hammel’s first career win at Tropicana Field despite playing parts of three big league seasons with the Rays.
Hammel allowed just two baserunners over his first five innings and had retired eight straight before allowing a solo homer to Ben Zobrist in the fourth.
But the key to the game was how the Orioles forced Price, who entered the day 6-2 with a 2.45 ERA in his career against the Orioles, into a high pitch count.
Price was forced from the game with no outs in the seventh after throwing 100 pitches, 68 of them strikes.
Wieters’ homer in the top of the first — Jones reached on a two-out double — was the first by a current Oriole against Price, who had allowed just one earned run in 221 / 3 innings against the Orioles in three starts last season.
The Orioles struggled early with runners in scoring position; they went 1-for-9 in those sitations before Jones’ rally-fueling double in the seventh.
Hammel carried a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth, where he issued a leadoff walk to Kelly Johnson, who scored the tying run on Desmond Jennings’ double down the third-base line. Sam Fuld’s sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly by Zobrist scored Jennings to give Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead.
But the Orioles sent eight batters to the plate in the five-run seventh, a rally that began with back-to-back singles by Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis.
The Orioles’ bullpen, which had the fifth-best ERA in baseball last year, held the Rays in check late, as Troy Patton, Darren O’Day, Pedro Strop and Jim Johnson combined to allow just one run on three hits over the final three innings.