Earlier in the week, the forecast for today's home opener was as bleak as the outlook for the Orioles in the 00s. Even Mother Nature isn't immune to a little Orioles Magic. There will be no miserable, cold, and wet rain. Instead, the faithful fans of Baltimore get the kind of beautiful day they deserve - at least as far as the weather goes. Whether the baseball part is as beautiful is up to the players.
If you're not there, well, me either. We can have our own party here. Beer and hot dogs are a lot cheaper and you can do your laundry instead of watch the crab shuffle. Unless you're stuck at work, and then I guess you have to pretend to work. Good luck.
I'd been thinking how it was a shame for the Orioles to open the season on the road, because there's something special about opening the first game at home, with a pristine, 0-0 record meaning that no harsh reality has yet set in. That's what I was used to thinking when the Orioles were losers, because I needed those 0-0 dreams. I wouldn't get any others.
Today, we arrive at the home opener with Chris Davis crushing every baseball in sight, with Adam Jones and Matt Wieters also (through small sample sizes) looking like the legit middle of the order bats Dan Duquette described back in January. Manny Machado and J.J. Hardy are vacuum cleaners on the left side of the infield. Between last year's success and the first series of this year, you can be excited and not be thought insane. It's kind of cool. Winning baseball is fun.
By a strange twist of fate, Jake Arrieta will be starting the first game in Baltimore for the third straight year. Two years ago, he was the #4 starter. Last year, he was the Opening Day starter, with many saying he was probably the worst Opening Day starter in MLB. The season proved they were probably right. This year, he's the #5 starter, but he's starting the 4th game, because Dan Duquette is some kind of roster move addict and couldn't resist getting an extra player for four games due to Chris Tillman's injury.
Last year, Arrieta was so bad that he was demoted to the bullpen at one point, but then Brian Matusz bunted a ball off his own face when practicing for interleague play, so Arrieta made his next scheduled start on normal rest - but he'd been relegated to the bullpen, make no mistake. (That's me being sarcastic.) I was in the press box that night - a game against the Pirates - and many of the reporters seemed to think Jake's problems were mental, that the bullpen demotion would allow him to pitch without thinking, because he hadn't been expecting to start. Maybe him being the 5th starter in the 4th game is the same theory in play.
Probably not, but you never know. There is that Yogi-ism. Jake went 7 innings, gave up one run and struck out nine that night. Then again, it was only the Pirates. Then again, today, it's only the Twins. Then again, they are coming into this series with a 2-1 record.
Liam Hendriks is the Twins starting pitcher. He had a 5.59 ERA last year, and that was still better than Jake's ERA. Hendriks is Australian. He gave up 17 home runs in 85.1 IP. Also, you can't spell "Chris Davis Grand Slam" without "Liam", so it's basically fate. Sorry, Hendriks. Just not your day. A Davis home run today would make him just the fourth player in MLB history to homer in four straight games to start the season - the others were Willie Mays (Giants, 1971), Mark McGwire (Cardinals, 1998), and Nelson Cruz (Rangers, 2011). One of these things is not like the others.
The Orioles were 47-34 at home last year. Can they start on the road to an even better record with a home opener win today? Go O's!
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||MINNESOTA TWINS|
|Nate McLouth - LF||Aaron Hicks - CF|
|Manny Machado - 3B||Joe Mauer - DH|
|Nick Markakis - RF||Josh Willingham - LF|
|Adam Jones - CF||Justin Morneau - 1B|
|Chris Davis - 1B||Ryan Doumit - C|
|Matt Wieters - C||Trevor Plouffe - 3B|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||Chris Parmalee - RF|
|Ryan Flaherty - 2B||Brian Dozier - 2B|
|Nolan Reimold - DH||Eduardo Escobar - SS|