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Game 4: Yankees (0-3) @ Orioles (3-0), 7:05pm

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Will we see J.J. Hardy tee off on Ivan Nova like he did against the Twins? Even better would be if Brian Matusz doesn't need the run support. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE
Will we see J.J. Hardy tee off on Ivan Nova like he did against the Twins? Even better would be if Brian Matusz doesn't need the run support. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

They sweep in from the north (or Northern Virginia) like a biblical plague of some kind. Their bleating is more befitting of sheep; obscene phrases and gestures make them more like some kind of comic relief parrot or monkey than anything, and just like a monkey might, they defecate everywhere and then fling the product at you. They are Yankee fans, and the only known cure for their infestation is for their baseball team to be battered so thoroughly that the faithful despair, that the bandwagon jumpers leap off as the wagon careens towards a cliff. Between the Curse of the Andino and the opening series this year, Boston fans may be doing this, but Yankees fans are not there yet.

New York and Boston sport identical 0-3 records, though. The Orioles will stake their perfection tonight against the Yankees' futility. You have seen me through the offseason, perhaps, maintaining that the Orioles will not so easily suck me in as they did two years ago (with mad talk of going .500) or even last year (with a 6-1 start), but it seems that, though I believed to be telling the truth at the time, I was wrong. Even now I can feel myself perched on the precipice of hope, ready to take the leap of faith with just a slight bit more provocation.

The reason for that is simple. Tonight, the rubber meets the road for Brian Matusz. After his complete stink bomb campaign in 2011, Matusz gets to make his 2012 debut against a team that scored 867 runs last year. Eleven of those runs were scored off Matusz in only 6.2 IP across two starts. He was so bad last year that I could not imagine him ever being good again, so if he comes out and continues the trend of strong starts leading to Orioles victories - against a team with more than two real major league hitters, no less - then I'll be off to the races. If I am shown that it is safe to believe that Matusz may not completely suck, then it's also safe to believe that the Orioles may not completely suck.

Orioles batters, who had a nice series against Twins pitching, will have to test their mettle against Ivan Nova, the fourth-place finisher in AL Rookie of the Year balloting last year. Nova put up a respectable 3.70 ERA in 165.1 IP, but the voters were not swayed by his 16-4 record, probably because he pitched for a team that averaged about 5.3 runs per game. I suspect Birdland is on the edge of hysteria much like I am, and if the O's somehow manage to get Nova off to a sophomore slump, well... it'd be pretty cool to see. All they have to do is win tonight. That's not too much to ask, is it?


Lineup

BALTIMORE ORIOLES NEW YORK YANKEES
Nolan Reimold - LF Derek Jeter - SS
J.J. Hardy - SS Nick Swisher - RF
Nick Markakis - RF Robinson Cano - 2B
Adam Jones - CF Alex Rodriguez - DH
Matt Wieters - C Mark Teixeira - 1B
Mark Reynolds - 3B Curtis Granderson - CF
Wilson Betemit - DH Andruw Jones - LF
Chris Davis - 1B Russell Martin - C
Robert Andino - 2B Eduardo Nunez - 3B

I would be remiss if I did not point out to you that Nunez is prominently featured in this stunning display of fielding prowess.