The last time the Orioles played in Baltimore on Sunday Night Baseball, it was July 31, 2005. Do you want to know how long ago that was? Nick Markakis was en route from High-A Frederick to Double-A Bowie on that day. It pre-dates the entire Orioles roster, except for one person, activated just today: Brian Roberts. He led off that night and went 2-5 with a homer off of Freddy Garcia. Yes, really.
That night, the Orioles would lose their fifth straight game, trapped in the midst of a 1-14 streak that would see a manager fired and, not much later, a steroid suspension issued to a member of the 500 home run, 3,000 hit club.
Those days are a distant memory now, and last year's Orioles are a big reason why. A hot beginning does not have to turn into a dramatic mess in the end. These Orioles are not those disaster Orioles. Here's a big part of why. The average age of a hitter on the 2005 O's was 31.3 years. The average age of a hitter on the 2013 O's is 27.5 years. In those four years lies the difference.
Tonight, they go for a sweep of the division rival Yankees. They have already beaten the Yankees in four straight games at home for the first time since 1991-92. What does that mean? Nothing much, especially if they don't make it a fifth straight win tonight. Boston has already won, because of course, and so the O's must win to keep pace at 2.5 games back.
They've already won one big national TV audience game just yesterday. The prey is a bit tougher today, with the ace of the Yankees staff, Hiroki Kuroda, set to pitch. When you look at a pitcher sporting a 2.77 ERA with a 1.05 WHIP and an opposing hitters slash line of .227/.269/.345, it is scary. Kuroda basically turns the league into the composite performance of Ryan Flaherty. Yowza. Kuroda already has one complete game shutout against the O's this year.
Chris Tillman starts for the O's. Historically, he sucks against Robinson Cano and Lyle Overbay. Tillman will give up home runs tonight. It's what he does. There is no stopping it. All we can hope for is that the bases are empty and the O's will scratch out some runs against the tough Kuroda, which they have also done this year, chasing him after two innings - hitting him with a line drive, particularly - while scoring five runs against him.
This season's Orioles suck historically at going for the sweep. They haven't managed one yet, unless you count that two-gamer against the Nationals, which you shouldn't. Maybe tonight will be their night.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||NEW YORK YANKEES|
|Nate McLouth - LF||Brett Gardner - CF|
|Manny Machado - 3B||Ichiro Suzuki - RF|
|Nick Markakis - RF||Robinson Cano - 2B|
|Adam Jones - CF||Travis Hafner - DH|
|Chris Davis - 1B||Zoilo Almonte - LF|
|Matt Wieters - C||Lyle Overbay - 1B|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||Jayson Nix - SS|
|Ryan Flaherty - 2B||Chris Stewart - C|
|Brian Roberts - DH||David Adams - 3B|