ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Baltimore played like a confident bunch that’s left 2012 behind and is intent on proving a surprising breakthrough season wasn’t a fluke.
Adam Jones keyed a seventh-inning rally with a go-ahead double and Chris Davis followed with a three-run homer Tuesday to help the Orioles launch their quest to return to the playoffs with a 7-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.
“Today starts a long journey together, and I’m curious as everybody else to see where it takes us,” manager Buck Showalter said.
“The season wouldn’t have ended if we lost today, and it wouldn’t end if we lose tomorrow, or if we win. That’s what I keep challenging our guys about,” he added. “This is a great group for staying in the moment, staying in reality.”
Matt Wieters homered early off AL Cy Young Award winner David Price and later drew an intentional walk from reliever Jake McGee (0-1) before Davis’ towering shot over the right-field wall broke open the game and silenced a sellout crowd of 34,078 at Tropicana Field.
Jason Hammel (1-0) allowed three runs and three hits in six innings. Jim Johnson pitched a scoreless ninth for the save.
“Last season is over, and everybody in the clubhouse has moved on to this year,” Wieters said. “It’s a good team win. Ham went out there and battled for us. He was able to get us through six innings and turn it over to the bullpen, which is the recipe we want to use.”
Despite giving up a two-run homer to Wieters in the first inning and not being particularly sharp in his second career opening day start, Price departed with a 3-2 lead after the Rays scored twice in the sixth.
Ben Zobrist hit a solo homer for Tampa Bay in the fourth, then put his team ahead with a sacrifice fly in the sixth. Desmond Jennings drove in the Rays’ other run with a sixth-inning double.
Showalter put the game into the hands of his trusted relievers after the five-run seventh. Darren O’Day allowed an unearned run in the eighth before Johnson, last year’s major league saves leader, finished the combined six-hitter.
“I think we did a lot of really good things today,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “Our defense was fantastic. ... David getting through six innings without having his best stuff and coming out of the game at 100 pitches with a 3-2 lead. ... Those were nice things. They just got us in one inning.”