The last time the Orioles found themselves on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, it was the final home game at the previous incarnation of the most storied stadium in the history of stadiums, stories, and history. The 2008 Orioles were set up to be the cupcakes on the way out the door, and they obliged by having Chris Waters start the game. Those O's were bad, and the team had been bad for a decade.
Times have changed. Five years later, the Orioles, coming off a playoff appearance, deserve to have the spotlight shone on them for their own merits. Early-season divisional intrigue sets the stage. Tonight's game will be the rubber match of the series. At least the Orioles got the whole embarrassing error/triple play thing out of their system before the national spotlight was upon them.
Wei-Yin Chen, Hero of Taiwan, answers the bell for the O's. You always have to worry a little about fly ball pitchers in the bandbox that is new Yankee Stadium, but at least Chen has the platoon splits in his favor. As a lefty, he ought to have some advantage over dead-pull lefties hitting home runs to the short right field porch in Yankee Stadium. He still has to make good pitches to exploit that advantage, and righties can bomb him if he's off (22 HR in 598 PA vs. RHB last season), but every little bit helps.
Another veteran of Nippon Professional Baseball, Hiroki Kuroda, starts the game for the Yankees. I had the standard skepticism for any pitcher switching from the NL to the AL about Kuroda, and he responded by firing off a 200+ IP, 3.32 ERA season. When you get 50% ground balls, that stuff can play in a lot of places, against a lot of hitters - even with a left side of the infield consisting of Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. Not bad at all.
Kuroda is sporting a 6.75 ERA through two starts on the season. His first start was interrupted early when he attempted to field a line drive with his bare hand, then he gave up three runs in 5.1 IP in Cleveland, which gets you an easy win any time your team scores 11 runs behind you. Hopefully tonight's Orioles pitchers are made of sterner stuff.
If you add up every plate appearance by every player on the O's roster against Kuroda, you get 100 PA, and a combined .580 OPS. No one has any significant action against him, but Ryan Flaherty is 1-for-3 with a HR and Manny Machado is 2-for-6 with a HR. Those home runs are notable because they happened in the American League Division Series. Man, last year was awesome.
As awesome as last year was, I'd like this year even more if the Orioles could make it better than last. They can take another step towards that with a win tonight, putting another stake on their claim for contention in the AL East in early action.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||NEW YORK YANKEES|
|Nate McLouth - LF||Brett Gardner - CF|
|Manny Machado - 3B||Vernon Wells - LF|
|Nick Markakis - RF||Robinson Cano - 2B|
|Adam Jones - CF||Kevin Youkilis - 3B|
|Chris Davis - 1B||Ben Francisco - DH|
|Matt Wieters - 1B||Brennan Boesch - RF|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||Francisco Cervelli - C|
|Ryan Flaherty - 2B||Lyle Overbay - 1B|
|Nolan Reimold - DH||Jayson Nix - SS|