The unstoppable, infallible juggernaut that is the Baltimore Orioles came out of the gate perfect, starting their season with a sweep of the Boston Red Sox which was capped by an 11-3 drubbing on Sunday afternoon. Each department of the team took the chance to shine throughout the weekend, so much so that it’s nigh impossible to pick one thing to be impressed by more than the others.
As an esteemed Orioles fan and Opinion Haver, I came away from this series at Camden North with three main takeaways:
John Bleeping Means
I mean, woof! My man 47 was in the zone in the opener. Pitching as good as he ever has in an Orioles uniform, Means threw seven shutout frames, allowing only a leadoff single to Kiké Hernandez. The star of the show was far and away his change-up, that he repeatedly located at the knees of hitters and caused eight Boston swings-and-misses.
While the fastball wasn’t sitting in the mid-90’s as it was last season, Means still has more than enough velocity, movement, and command of the pitch to make it effective. Any critique of his performance would be hair splitting to the highest degree; Means showed all the signs of regaining his All-Star form and then some.
The Resurrection of Ced
Two years ago Cedric Mullins entered the season with many projecting him to be entrenched in center field, but a dreadful 6-for-64 start found him all the way back in Bowie by the end of the summer. However, Mullins took advantage of the team’s lack of major league depth to reinvent himself (quite literally now that he’s given up switch-hitting) and re-emerge in Baltimore, and talk about taking the ball and running with it.
Or seeing the ball and hitting with it. Yeah, let’s roll with that one.
Mullins made his name known to the people of Fenway Park this weekend with a ho-hum 9-for-13 output including five hits in the series finale. Obviously it’s still too early to extrapolate these numbers and pencil Big Ced in for an all star appearance, the early signs are more than encouraging and on a human level, it’s nice to see him succeeding after the tumult he experienced in 2019.
And hey, how fitting that a guy we are talking about being resurrected, on Easter became the first O’s CF with a leadoff 5-hit game since Al Bumbry in 1979 (h/t @HighHeatStats).
Rio, Defensive Genius
Not bad for a guy who only had two (!) Major League innings at second base prior to Friday’s opener, huh?
When Maikel Franco was signed on March 16, most in the Orioles community expected Ruiz to be the corresponding roster move. However, Yolmer Sanchez was the casualty, leaving an unorthodox opportunity that Rio more than capitalized on this weekend. Ruiz played a terrific second base, the likes of which we haven’t seen in Birdland since Steve Pearce manned the position. His newfound prowess was on display several times in the season opener, including one sick play in particular.
Ruiz’s offensive output isn’t going to jump off the page, and he may lose playing time if Jahmai Jones or Rylan Bannon is called up later this season, but if he can display this level of proficiency at second base until then, Rio will see plenty of action.
Sweeping the Red Sox is something of which I will never tire. To be honest, it was a bit of a challenge sticking to three main takeaways, because a bunch of guys did good stuff! Bruce Zimmermann pitched well. Trey Mancini hit the ball hard all weekend and displayed some defensive gems of his own. Cesar Valdez closed out two games. Ryan Mountcastle had a key double. Having baseball back was good enough in and of itself, but this season is going to be doubly fun if we continue to witness individual performances like the first weekend in Fenway.
On to New York!