Wow, that first game was pretty awesome. What if I told you there were at least 161 games left? You would be pretty excited, right? Well you're in luck, we still have six months of baseball ahead of us. Sure, there won't be anymore long orange carpets through center field, but that doesn't make these games any less important than Opening Day.
Today, the O's match up again with the BoSox, who are fresh off their visit to D.C. to take selfies with the president, or something like that. This could be one of many first for the Birds of Baltimore as they try to capture their first series win of the season.
RHP John Lackey , Boston Red Sox
2013 stats: 10-13, 3.52 ERA, 189.1 IP, 161 SO, .247 BAA, 1.16 WHIP
Lackey had a bounce back season in 2013. He was returning from Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss all of 2012, following an abysmal 2011.
In the the past two or three seasons Lackey has become more and more reliant on his slider. His usage of the pitched jumped from 14.2% of the time in 2010 to 30% this past season. Meanwhile, his curveball has been seen less and less; only 10% of his pitches in 2013.
RHP Ubaldo Jimenez , Baltimore Orioles
2013 stats: 13-9, 3.30 ERA, 182.2 IP, 194 SO, .239 BAA, 1.33 WHIP
Everyone knows how good Jimenez was at the end of last season. This year he faces the fiercest competition of his career when he matches up with the power of the AL East. What better way to break him in than against the defending World Series champs?
Look for Jimenez to feature his split-fingered fastball. His four-seam fastball velocity has dropped consistently for three straight seasons, but Jimenez has adapted. The splitter has become his "out" pitch.
1. RF Nick Markakis (L)
2. LF David Lough (L)
3. CF Adam Jones (R)
4. 1B Chris Davis (L)
5. DH Nelson Cruz (R)
6. C Matt Wieters (S)
7. SS J.J. Hardy (R)
8. 3B Ryan Flaherty (L)
9. 2B Steve Lombardozzi (S)
We get to see the first action in an orange and black uniform from both Lough and Lombardozzi. Unfortunately for the O's, their hitter with the best track record against Lackey is the currently disabled Manny Machado. However, that doesn't mean history is not on their side. Davis has had his share of success versus the righty. In 30 at-bats he has hit .367 with two home runs, three doubles and six RBI. Markakis can also handle Lackey, hitting .333 in 54 at-bats with four doubles, four RBI and five walks. And add Delmon Young to the troupe that has hit well in opposition of Boston's starter; .353 average in 17 at-bats. Young on the bench is not a "surprise" necessarily as it was thought he would play primarily against lefties, but his career numbers do give some reason for pause.
On the flip side, a handful of Orioles have struggled with Lackey and his fastball-slider combination. Jones has had many a-meeting with the University of Texas at Arlington alum. In 42 at-bats Jones has only mustered a .238 batting averge, but he has wacked three home runs. The biggest struggles have come from Hardy and Wieters. Both have only a career .167 batting average against Lackey. Hardy has done so in 18 at-bats, Wieters; 30.
1. RF Daniel Nava (S)
2. 2B Dustin Pedroia (R)
3. DH David Ortiz (L)
4. 1B Mike Napoli (R)
5. LF Jonny Gomes (R)
6. CF Grady Sizemore (L)
7. SS Xander Bogaerts (R)
8. C A.J. Pierzynski (L)
9. 3B Will Middlebrooks (R)
There are a lot of big numbers when matching up Boston hitters with Baltimore's newly signed Jimenez. However, most have seen the righty ten times or less. The hitter with the most experienced against Jimenez is catcher Pierzynski. Even he has only had 17 at-bats, but has only put up a .235 batting average and has hit one home run off of him. So, I don't but much weight in Napoli's .750 average in four at-bats, nor Pedoria's .500 BA in 10 at-bats. Gomes has had 12 shots at Ubaldo, hitting to the tune of .417 with two home runs.
Similarly, don't think about the fact that David Ortiz has yet to garner a hit versus Jimenez. He's only seen the fellow Dominican Republic native five times. These numbers will certainly gain importance as the season progresses. This will be the first of many meetings between these division foes.