In the not-so-distant past, the Orioles winning their first game would have been met with a smile, and the manager saying, "The best thing about winning your first game is you can't lose them all." We would have then laughed as if he was joking. Many bad Orioles teams won their first game of the season, including the 2009 and 2011 teams. This is no great feat. There are 161 games still to go - and then some, we hope.
It is plenty early, and there are no conclusions to be drawn about anything, not that this stops some people from drawing conclusions. A win in April is worth the same as a win in any other month, as the cliche goes, so if they were to lose, we could not say much about that either. There are two counters to this argument. One is from a baseball standpoint: April is the chance for the O's to put distance between themselves and the injury-depleted Yankees. The opportunity to continue to do this will diminish as their players make expected returns. The other relates to the space-time continuum. We are here, now, and being as we are Orioles fans, it would be much more fun if the Orioles win tonight than not.
A recent nemesis for the O's will take the mound for the Rays tonight: Jeremy Hellickson. Even last year's team, great as they were, had Hellickson hold them to a 2.38 ERA, including 11.1 scoreless innings over two starts in September and October, when the O's were firing on all cylinders. He did not get a decision in one of those games, which the O's won in the 14th inning. In 12 career starts against the O's he has a 2.30 ERA.
Hellickson's opponent that September afternoon was tonight's O's starter, Wei-Yin Chen. This is one of baseball's many interesting, yet meaningless, coincidences. Though a lot of O's fans are confident in Chen to repeat or better his performance - making all his starts, ending up with a 4.02 ERA - from last year, he's not a sure thing to do this in his sophomore MLB season. With an offseason to have studied him, will the league pick up on something that they did not last year? In any case, we can't put too much meaning into one start, good or bad - and even if he isn't his sharpest, there's always the chance for some Orioles hitters heroics. Yesterday's performance against the defending AL Cy Young Award winner and the shellacking of one of last year's best relievers is proof of that.
Adam Jones has hit three home runs off Hellickson in 29 plate appearances, and for every other Orioles hitter it's either super small sample size or a sample you want to hope doesn't hold any predictive value tonight. I looked. It isn't pretty.
Though, someone who looked at Taylor Teagarden's 9-64 at the plate last year might assume that wasn't pretty either, unless they'd seen the eight games where he got hits. Teagarden is not in the lineup tonight; that would be silly, on the second game of the season, to have Wieters on the bench. Hellickson might only give up three hits all night and strike out like twelve dudes, but if one of those hits is a clutch home run, and Chen and the bullpen put up blanks, we'll forget about all the rest for a while.
If they want to light up Hellickson like a fireworks show, that would be great, too. Heroics are nice and all, but drama-free beatdowns are even better.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||TAMPA BAY RAYS|
|Nate McLouth - LF||Desmond Jennings - CF|
|Manny Machado - 3B||Sean Rodriguez - LF|
|Nick Markakis - RF||Ben Zobrist - RF|
|Adam Jones - CF||Evan Longoria - 3B|
|Chris Davis - 1B||Shelley Duncan - 1B|
|Matt Wieters - C||Yunel Escobar - SS|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||Ryan Roberts - 2B|
|Nolan Reimold - DH||Jose Lobaton - C|
|Brian Roberts - 2B||Kelly Johnson - DH|