BALTIMORE – It seems like every game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards isn't just a game; it's an event. I have had the distinct pleasure to watch not one, but two Angels road games in Baltimore, and the experience has been phenomenal.
For any traveling fans, if you've never been to Oriole Park, you are missing out on a crown jewel of Major League Baseball. The entire staff welcomes visitors with open arms, and you can tell that this stadium is a point of pride with them. First time guests can receive a packet with a certificate that makes you a “Most Valuable Orioles Fan” for your 1st O's game, and they even include some brochures. When I told the usher at Guest Services about my ambitious cross-country trip, she gave me some extra goodies, as well. The workers at Camden Yards are truly among the best in baseball. Even before entering the stadium, fans were buzzing about the recent success of the ball club, and these are pretty loyal fans. Some of them even went as far as saying that they could win the pennant and make the World Series.
Another hot-button topic amongst both the workers and fans is the upcoming trade deadline taking place Thursday afternoon. Even the ushers were knowledgable on who could arrive and/or leave in the next 24 hours. I was actually very impressed with their opinions on the matter of trades, and the Oriole fans, in general, strike me as a fanbase who really know their baseball.
Batting practice today was not nearly as eventful as Tuesday, mainly because the Angels hitters were not launching as many. In fact, I could even tell during BP that the bats were simply not there on this night. That would serve to be an omen to the game. The most action came during the Orioles' BP and the multitude of home run balls that landed in the left field seats. The fans over the right-field porch were not so lucky, even with some of the left-handed power the Angels put out there.
Another major feature at Camden Yards is the food, and the chance to meet and greet Oriole legend, Boog Powell at his famous BBQ stand. “Boog” is about as humble as they come and is always willing to sign some autographs or take a few quick pictures. Overall, the ballpark experience is unlike any other, and this was all before the game.
While last night's game included a flair for the dramatic with Manny Machado's walk-off 12th inning home run, this game saw the Orioles jump out to a quick lead, which immediately got the crowd going. In the 1st inning, Adam Jones launched his 21st home run into deep center field off Angels starter, Garrett Richards, and this crowd was into the game right away.
Meanwhile, Kevin Gausman was mowing them down retiring the first 12 batters. Although it was early, there were still some fans who pointed to the scoreboard hoping for something special to happen. That is one thing that sets these fans apart from most fan bases, they pay attention to things like bagels across the board and knowing something amazing COULD happen.
In the bottom of the 4th, this crowd got out of their chairs again as David Lough and Ryan Flaherty each scored in runs, and the hometown O's were spotted four runs right away. Meanwhile, Kevin Gausman mowed down the first two batters of the 5th inning, and the fans were beginning to think something good could happen. After walking the bases loaded, the no-hitter was still intact, and fans got out of their chairs realizing that not only was a no-hitter on the line, but the game, as well. On a full count, Chris Iannetta deflated the Camden Yards crowd with a 2-RBI single. The no-hitter was gone, and so was the shutout. Kole Calhoun later hit an RBI double to cut the lead in half, but Gausman then struck out Mike Trout to end the bleeding.
As the game went on, I took in the sights of what was in front of me. Since I was sitting on the third base side, I got a classic view of the old B&O Warehouse where the huge “2131” hung two decades ago when Cal Ripken, Jr. broke the record for consecutive games played. Even though this park is 22 years young (and the 10th oldest in the Major Leagues), there have already been countless moments that set this ballpark apart from many others, and was really the park that started the “retro” ballpark construction phase in the 1990s. Now several stadiums take their cue from Camden Yards and try to make their own unique place in the landscape of Major League ballparks. When there isn't much hitting going on, one tends to think about these things.
For the last couple innings, it was all effective bullpen pitching as the Orioles' Darren O' Day and Zach Britton closed out the game to send those Orioles fans home happy with a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Angels. But, for this writer, it wasn't entirely about the outcome of the game, it was about even getting the chance to watch these two top-tier teams battle it out for a playoff spot in a beautiful backdrop like Camden Yards, and neither team disappointed. Who knows... this could end up being a playoff preview in October, and if these two teams meet, expect fireworks.
Final from Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, MD:
Angels, 3 Orioles, 4
Time of Game: 2 hours, 35 minutes
W – Kevin Gausman (5-3, 3.70)
L – Garrett Richards (11-4, 2.74)
SV – Zach Britton (21, 1.65)