Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Vintage Fridays: Dave McNally, 1971 Topps #320

With today's intrasquad game, the Orioles inched a little closer to the April 6 opener of the regular season. But there's still a few dozen exhibition games to slog through before we get there, so I decided to find the best Opening Day performance by an O's starting pitcher. My quest was facilitated by Baseball Reference's Opening Day starters page for the club; I clicked on the box scores and used the pitchers' Game Scores as my criteria for simplicity's sake. There have been a fair share of stinkers and plenty of "good enough" efforts, but five performances stood out above the rest. I'll list them in reverse chronological order.

April 1, 2011: Orioles 4 at Rays 1. WP: Jeremy Guthrie (GS 81)

This is the only one I witnessed as it was happening, in the company of friends and acquaintances from Camden Chat at Pickles' Pub. Sitting a few hundred feet from Oriole Park, we saw Jeremy Guthrie turn in his best game of the season. He breezed through 8 innings on 94 pitches, giving up only a pair of doubles, a single, and a walk. No batter reached third base, and he struck out six. With the O's up 4-0 in the ninth, Jim Johnson was called upon to finish, and gave up a solo home run to Ben Zobrist to spoil the shutout.

April 6, 1992: Orioles 2 vs. Indians 0. WP: Rick Sutcliffe (GS 82)

This was of course the first regular-season game played at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and Sutcliffe's Oriole debut. (Side note: How cool is it that the Birds open the 2012 season on the 20th anniversary of the ballpark's first opener?) The red-bearded veteran kept Cleveland off-balance all day, yielding five singles and a walk and striking out six. His offense gave him little margin for error, but Sut outdueled Charlie Nagy, who took a complete-game, six-hit loss.

April 10, 1975: Orioles 10 at Tigers 0. WP: Jim Palmer (GS 85)

Going by Game Score, this one is the winner winner, chicken dinner. It's little surprise, as Palmer mowed down the first dozen Detroit batters before Nate Colbert managed a leadoff single in the fifth inning. All three Tiger hits were singles, and none even made it to second base. "Cakes" had only four strikeouts, but did not issue any walks. The O's battered Joe Coleman, with Lee May doing manager Earl Weaver proud with a three-run homer to open the scoring in the first inning.

April 6, 1973: Oriole 10 vs. Brewers 0. WP: Dave McNally (GS 82)

Another 10-0 romp? I hope Baltimore fans knew how good they had it in the 1970s. McNally's effort was also a three-hit, no-walk gem, but he struck out just one batter. He pitched around a Gorman Thomas triple as well as a Rick Auerbach double, but the outcome wasn't truly in doubt. Brooks Robinson socked two home runs, and Don Baylor pounded out four extra base hits, finishing a single shy of the cycle.

April 7, 1970: Orioles 8 at Indians 2. WP: Dave McNally (GS 81)

Jim Palmer may have the single best O's Opening Day start, but the lefty from Montana is the only repeat performer on this list. He surrendered a pair of runs on four hits and three walks, but compensated by whiffing a career-high 13 Tribe hitters. Opposing starter "Sudden Sam" McDowell fanned 11 Birds, but lasted only 6.1 innings. The Orioles put the game on ice against the Cleveland bullpen thanks to some patient at-bats. McDowell walked the first two batters in the seventh and was pulled with one out and a 2-1 lead. Davey Johnson walked to load the bases, and then Mike Paul earned a blown save by issuing run-scoring walks to Elrod Hendricks and Curt Motton. A pair of two-run doubles by Paul Blair and Davey Johnson gave the Birds a four-run eighth inning, and Frank Robinson added the exclamation point with a ninth-inning home run.

So there you have it. Whoever gets the Game 1 assignment next month has a tough act to follow.

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