Quick thoughts on this weekend’s opening series:
- Not much else can be said about the starting pitching. It was outstanding all weekend long. Arrieta looked good on Friday, but I am not sure he was great. I say that as a compliment – he got excellent results without necessarily having to hit his absolute ceiling to achieve them. If Jake can command his pitches as well as he did on Friday on a consistent basis, he will have very few legitimately bad outings this season. If he can improve the command a little and be slightly more consistent with his fastball every now and again, I think there is a good chance he will have some truly dominate outings in 2012. Hunter was Hunter – he threw strikes, worked quickly, and kept the Orioles in the game. Hammel was very, very good and I really thought that once he got through the 7th, that we were going to see a no-hitter. It wasn’t to be, but that doesn’t take anything away from his outstanding performance. If Hammel really has gotten over some mental hurdles and reestablished his sinker like he has claimed (the 14 groundouts yesterday would indicate that at least the latter is true) then that is a huge boost to the rotation. Yesterday was certainly a good start and a heck of a debut.
- Speaking of the near no-hitter, Tim and I were talking about at the game (I only used vague references to the no-hitter; don’t blame me for any jinx) and I said something like, “I am not sure if anyone knows what is going on. This was in the 6th inning. Tim disagreed. He thought people did but they were being quiet about it. The reactions to Hammel getting out of the 7th hinted at that being true and the loud and prolonged ovation Hammel got in the 8th after letting up his first hit of the game confirmed it. Oriole fans are, by and large, pretty educated fans and that ovation was another example of it. They knew exactly what was going, were keeping quiet about it, and gave Hammel a heck of an ovation for his effort. It was great to see.
- Far too many Twins fans at the weekend series. Twins fans aren’t obnoxious or anything and they had little to cheer about this weekend anyway. It’s just the idea that fans of so many different teams show up in substantial numbers of many O’s home games that annoys me a bit. I understand it is mainly a symptom of the hometown fans not buying enough tickets, making it all too easy and enticing for displaced fans of other teams to come to Camden Yards to watch their favorite team take on the O’s. I also understand that it is a problem that will go away when tickets aren’t as accessible as they are now. Still, it’s annoying. I’m slowly but surely coming to grips with the fact that this is something I am just going to have to endure for a while and isn’t necessarily reflective of an annoying fan base.
- Tried out Gino’s on Saturday night. I wasn’t too hungry so Tim and I split a buffalo chicken tender basket. The line was packed, but they were getting you checked out fast. The wait for food, especially burgers, was the real time-consumer. It looked like people were waiting 5+ minutes for their order after paying. Luckily, the wait for the tenders was virtually non-existent. I really liked the chicken and the buffalo sauce, while obviously messy, was good and relatively mild. Fries were fine. I definitely need to get back at some point to try a burger.
- Other than that, we didn’t explore much. We need to get up to the rooftop bar at some point. Tim and I both concluded that Red Sox fans are going to love that area. It is the “cool” seat, there’s a bar right there, and they are going to think it feels like watching a game from the Green Monster seats. I am strongly considering trying to get some movement together for the May series to get a bunch of O’s fans up there before they can Bogart all of those seats.
- It was a great opening series. I am going to enjoy it. Notice there is no “. . . while it lasts” qualifier in there. To me, that takes some of the joy out when you are already attaching qualifiers and bracing yourself for a downfall. I am fully aware of the fact that we have played 1.85% of the season so getting very high or low based on opening weekend performance is silly. A sweep feels good anytime of the year and this one is no exception. The team has played well and there are reasons to be optimistic after the first weekend. For me, it’s all about taking it one game at a time and enjoying each win for what it is, without justifying the joy.
Tim and I will be there again tonight before taking a day off tomorrow night. I am really excited, if not a tad nervous, to see Brian Matusz pitch. I am not necessarily looking for anything like we’ve gotten from the other three starters so far. A nice 6 IP, 3 ER quality start would be fine by me. More than anything, I just want to see Matusz hang in there and pitch a good game, something all O’s fans have been waiting to see in a regular season game for almost a year now.