Twelve Orioles thoughts following season-opening series win in Boston

July 26, 2020 | Luke Jones

With the Orioles winning a three-game series at Fenway Park to open the 2020 season, I’ve offered a dozen thoughts, each in 50 words or less:

1. The opener was a nightmare, but credit this group for bouncing back. Contention remains years away, but silencing Opening Day hot takes about 1988 and Baltimore not cracking double-digit wins is satisfying. Who would have guessed in February the Orioles would be tied for first place with 57 games left?

2. After walking zero batters in a game only four times last season, Orioles pitching didn’t issue a free pass in back-to-back contests for the first time in five years. It’s amazing how much easier the game becomes with competent pitching. Brandon Hyde will pray for more of the same.

3. How many fans needed to look up Cole Sulser on Baseball Reference after his surprising six-out save to close the series? Claimed off waivers from Tampa Bay last October, the 30-year-old recorded seven swinging strikes on 28 pitches. Quite the fun story, whether a one-hit wonder or not.

4. More than a few correctly noted Jose Iglesias isn’t an ideal choice for the third spot in the lineup, but the veteran shortstop with a .687 career OPS went 7-for-13 with three doubles in the series. I disliked the Jonathan Villar salary dump, but this was a solid signing.

5. Anthony Santander may still provide some vindication for Dan Duquette’s dubious Rule 5 draft obsession. The 25-year-old not only homered and drove in four in the series, but he made a terrific catch near “Pesky’s Pole” on Sunday. An impressive start, especially after missing time with a COVID-19 positive test.

6. Rio Ruiz also showed some power with a homer in each of his two starts. He slugged just .328 in the first half of 2019, but the 26-year-old posted a .462 slugging percentage after the All-Star break, albeit with more sporadic playing time. This is a pivotal year for him.

7. We forget Alex Cobb pitched well in the second half of 2018, but the guy we saw Saturday was what Baltimore envisioned when signing him. That said, the $15 million he’s owed next year will make trading him for anything of value difficult even if he remains healthy and effective.

8. There’s no need to analyze the quality of contact earlier in Sunday’s game or Chris Davis’ run-scoring double to snap his 0-for-10 start to 2020. I’m just glad we don’t have to rehash the embarrassing 0-for-54 streak that grabbed so many headlines early last season.

9. Soft-tossing lefties must command their pitches and avoid the heart of the plate to have any chance. That was evident in the first starts for Tommy Milone and Wade LeBlanc. The latter pitched better than his final line indicated after Miguel Castro surrendered a two-run single in relief.

10. A hat tip to Jon Meoli for this, but Richard Bleier throwing his slider so frequently in his first outing is something to watch. If healthy, the 33-year-old lefty finding a swing-and-miss pitch would be an interesting development for contenders seeking bullpen help by next month’s trade deadline.

11. If baseball promises not to make this 16-team playoff field a permanent fixture, I’m cool with embracing that chaos after an unprecedented 60-game season already littered with asterisks and concerns that it will even be completed. Just don’t ruin the value of the 162-game marathon going forward. Please.

12. I have nothing against the alternate black tops — the “O’s” alternate cap is a different story — but it was disappointing not to see the superior “Baltimore” road jerseys for any of the three games in Boston. Teams should be required to wear home whites and road grays for Opening Day.