Izturis makes presence felt in opener
Orioles' win over Yanks not possible without shortstop
BALTIMORE -- Hail Cesar. Baltimore manager Dave Trembley has often spoken of Cesar Izturis as his team's X-Factor, and he watched as the shortstop played a big role on Opening Day.
Izturis made a key defensive play early in Monday's 10-5 win over the Yankees and then popped a looping home run in the eighth inning to shift the scales for good. Baltimore went on to score two more runs, pushing the game away from a potential save situation and sealing a one-sided win.
But without Izturis, the game could've ended far earlier and with a much different outcome. The diminutive infielder had just two home runs in the last three seasons, but the Orioles got him for his glove.
"We've been saying all along that there's not enough you can say about infield defense," said Trembley. "I'll sleep even better tonight knowing that he's out there, because the guy is real good."
Shortstop had been a major weakness for the Orioles in 2008, with five players vying for the starting job and none nailing it down. And then there was Izturis on Monday, showing outstanding range to his left and strong baseball instincts on a play that may have saved Jeremy Guthrie as the pitcher of record.
Guthrie (1-0) was teetering in the sixth, having allowed two runs on two extra-base hits. And with two men out and Xavier Nady standing on second, Izturis ranged far to his left to save a possible hit. There was no chance to get the runner at first, but Izturis threw to third and caught Nady making an aggressive turn.
That momentarily preserved a three-run lead, and it loomed even larger when the Yankees came back for two runs in the seventh. If you ask Guthrie or Trembley, it was undoubtedly the play of the game.
"The rain probably helped us, because the field was somewhat damp and wet and it slowed the ball down," said Trembley. "But still, you're going to get that same kind of effort from him all the time."
"I didn't think it was going to get through, but he made a great play," added Guthrie. "Watching on the replay, he dove, and it wasn't an easy play. The ball was up in the air [and] his glove was up in the air. And then to come back and throw it to third base, those are plays that will benefit our staff all season.
"If that ball goes up the middle, a run scores and I come out of the game. The momentum continues on their side and who knows where it goes from there. Izzy made two of the biggest plays tonight."
Baltimore had dominated the early innings, using a pair of three-run rallies to take control against Yankees starter CC Sabathia. Adam Jones tripled in two runs in the third inning and scored on a sacrifice fly to make it a 3-1 game. The Orioles (1-0) came back for three infield hits in the fifth and drew a bases-loaded walk to score another run.
New York (0-1) began to answer, though, scoring two runs in the sixth on a leadoff home run by catcher Jorge Posada and an RBI double by Nady. Things really began to change in the seventh, when reliever Chris Ray gave up a two-run homer to Hideki Matsui and then walked the final batter, Posada, that he faced.
Trembley began to play matchups, and Jamie Walker gave up a hit to the only batter, Robinson Cano, he faced. Finally, Dennis Sarfate came in and coaxed an inning-ending 5-3 double play out of Nady to end the road team's best threat. Baltimore went on to score four unanswered runs, giving Trembley his first career win on Opening Day.
"People asked me before the game and a couple days leading up to this what everybody is feeling," Trembley said. "Unless you go through this, you really don't understand this. It's beyond trying to explain."
The Yankees rallied again in the eighth against Jim Johnson, using a double from Nick Swisher and a Brett Gardner sacrifice bunt to push the potential tying run within 90 feet of home plate. Johnson wound up getting a pair of ground balls sandwiched around a walk, and then Izturis set about putting the game out of reach.
Gregg Zaun started the eighth with a double to right field, and Izturis popped a wall-scraping homer that barely traveled over left fielder Johnny Damon's extended glove. Aubrey Huff sent another two runs home with a two-out double, giving George Sherrill plenty of room to close out the game.
"It was a good feeling, especially today on Opening Day," said Izturis. "You're trying to get your first base hit, your first RBI. Right there, I was just trying to just put the ball in play and put a good swing on it."
And for the Orioles, it was bigger than a normal win. Baltimore saw its largest Opening Day crowd at Camden Yards (48,607) and took in a pregame visit from Vice President Joe Biden and from Peter Angelos, the team's managing partner. All in all, it was a game that Trembley will never forget.
"It kind of says a whole lot when you have the Vice President of the United States here, the owner and the largest crowd for Opening Day," Trembley said. "And we win. ... That's a nice day for everybody."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.