The finality to game 162 of last season was what made it cool. The Orioles sent the Red Sox packing with a walk-off, the season was over for both teams and that was that. We will never forget that. But it turns out there is another cool feeling, which is crashing in to Boston for a weekend series, taking three tough games from them, and emerging in first place while essentially causing their fanbase to engage in ritual self-immolation. If I might paraphrase a very wise Imp, the season ending is so final, but early May is full of possibilities. This is the first time in a long time where I can envision as many good possibilities as bad ones.
A new challenge presents itself in the form of the two-time defending American League champions, the Texas Rangers. Unlike Boston, they are not a chaotic mess of an organization. They have both pitching and hitting. They have tasted success, almost tasted a World Series title twice, and they would like to go back. They are a force of destruction, and we are trapped in a cage with them for the next four nights.
It's up to Brian Matusz to hold the line tonight after a 39-innings-over-three-days marathon weekend that's left the bullpen so depleted that the Orioles had to make two roster moves just to fortify it for the next couple of days. Fresh arms are here in the form of Jason Berken and Stu Pomeranz, and hopefully they won't be needed much and won't suck if they are needed. Despite what I said above, is there anyone who feels good about Matusz pitching against the high-powered Texas offense. One problem with trying to cling to this belief that it's a "different" Orioles team, much as I want to think it after that weekend series, is that every game presents a new referendum on the concept, even for a team with the best current record in all of MLB.
If Brian can hang on against Texas, I think that'll set me up for at least a week of good feelings regardless of what else occurs.
Meantime, the Orioles hitters, who may also be exhausted after that Boston series, go up against Texas' Matt Harrison, a ground ball pitcher who will be going up against an Orioles offense that leads MLB in GIDPs. Not a good combination for the O's. On the other hand, Texas has Brandon Snyder (yes, him!) playing third base behind Harrison, and Michael Young playing first base. I shouldn't laugh about Snyder; in his limited 16 PA he's batting .357/.438/.643. Our Rangers blogging counterparts at Lone Star Ball are generally quite adamant that Young should not play in the field, like anywhere, ever. Mark Reynolds makes us all too familiar with this feeling, though he hopefully won't remind us of it at third base tonight. Also, Wilson Betemit is in left field. Dang.
We're riding high after the Boston series. Don't let the wind out of our sails, Brian!
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||TEXAS RANGERS|
|Robert Andino - 2B||Ian Kinsler - 2B|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||Elvis Andrus - SS|
|Nick Markakis - RF||Josh Hamilton - LF|
|Adam Jones - CF||Adrian Beltre - DH|
|Matt Wieters - DH||Michael Young - 1B|
|Mark Reynolds - 3B||Nelson Cruz - RF|
|Wilson Betemit - LF||Mike Napoli - C|
|Chris Davis - 1B||Brandon Snyder - 3B|
|Luis Exposito - C||Craig Gentry - CF|