Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Orioles Victory Card (1987 Season Edition): Opening the season with a win!

Baltimore Orioles Victory Number 1: 2-1 over the Texas Rangers

2006 Topps Opening Day Opening Day Insert Set (talk about repetitive)

With the sporting world on hold due to the novel coronavirus shutting down the world for a few months we here at The Hopeful Chase are going to our rain delay programming. For the last two seasons we've posted a baseball card following every Baltimore Orioles victory (I know, talk about the minimum commitment required). It's fun and keeps us writing about baseball and collecting. Rather than sit back and stare forlornly at the outside world we've decided to continue the series with a season from the past.  The season of choice - 1987. Please enjoy.

After a decidedly topsy-turvey spring training that seemed to raise more questions then it answered it's nice to see the Orioles start things off with a win. Not only a win, but an old-fashioned pitching and defense win. New skipper Cal Ripken, Sr. has to be happy with the three double plays and Eddie Murray backing up a relay throw that missed the intended cut-off man. Murray was able to gather up the bad throw and still make the relay to home to cut down Bob Brower at the plate.

Not only were they fine in the field, they took advantage of miscues by the Rangers to score both runs. First it was Fred Lynn scampering home after the ball got past catcher Don Slaught on a Ray Knight strike-out. Those things happen when a knuckleballer like Charlie Hough is on the mound. The game-winning run came on a sac fly by Larry Sheets. Rene Gonzales was on third because he was able to go from first to third following an errant pick-off throw from reliever Greg Harris.

Ripken Sr. has steadily preached fundamentals throughout the spring, something that the Orioles got away from last season. It wasn't the only reason they finished in last place in 1986,but it was a major reason. The bats weren't exactly on fire to start the season as they only managed five hits against Hough and Harris, but the home squad did take advantage of the few chances they had and won the game.

Even more encouraging was the performance of Mike Boddicker. Coming off a second-half of a season where he was beleaguered with injuries the Orioles ace looked like his old Cy Young self as he worked 7 2/3 innings. His only run allowed came off of a Oddibie McDowell first-inning home run. After that auspicious start, the crowd of 51,650 watched Boddicker keep the Rangers off balance with his usual array of breaking stuff and sneaky quick fastball.

The new guys may not have delivered much offense but Rick Burleson and Ray Knight were solid in the field which, to be honest, is why they're on the club. Knight, the reigning World Series MVP, should solidify a third base spot that saw the Orioles churn through ten different players and commit more than 35 errors last season. Burleson, a stop gap veteran signed to buy time until youngsters Billy Ripken and Pete Stanicek are ready for the big leagues, handled all seven chances that came his way and started two of the three double plays.

So, the new skipper was elated with the result right? Well, that would mean the hard-nosed baseball lifer was capable of elation, which seems to be a question at this point. He told the Washington Post,

"Listen, we played a good game," he said. "We talked all spring about executing and doing the little things, and we did them today. But we could have done them and lost. That other team didn't play badly. The point I'm making is that this is a 162-game schedule, and you can't get too high or too low. Everything worked fine today, but everything is not always going to be that way." 

For at least one day the Orioles practiced what their new manager was preaching. In a wide open American League fundamentals may just be enough to catapult this squad into contention. 

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