The Orioles started off the season well taking two out of three from the Rays in Tampa. While their offense was non-existent in Game 3, they put up six runs in each of the first two games for an average of 4 runs per game in the season. They averaged a little more than that last season but not by much so I'd consider that good for the first series. The pitching was not great, but good enough to let them win two. Again, I think these guys should be given a lot of leeway for their first outings of the season, but that's me.
The Blue Jays meanwhile took two of three from the Yankees in New York. They scored 15 runs and only gave up 8. That's actually second best in the division to get the season started. The Red Sox scored 16 and gave up 6, but they played the Phillies.
This will be the first series between the Orioles and Blue Jays this year. Both teams are serious contenders for the division crown, with the Blue Jays arguably in a little more of a "win now" mode. The Blue Jays jumped out to the early division lead last season before the Orioles overtook them and never looked back and won the season series last year, 11-8. Like most division contests, the two teams usually play each other close and tight. In fact, the Orioles +4 run differential against the Jays in 2014 was by far the closest in the division. (Their next closest was against the Rays at +18).
While I won't actually be able to attend the Home Opener festivities, my wife and her friends will be there and despite what some people have accused me of I am not secretly hoping the game gets rained out in my absence. But seriously, if you will be going, bring your orange poncho.
Friday, April 10th
Bud Norris vs. Mark Buehrle
Last year Norris was 4-0 with a 1.78 ERA against the Blue Jays and 8-2 at home with an ERA of 2.44. Jose Bautista only has 1 hit in 13 at bats against him. Edwin Encarnacion has 3 hits in 10 at bats, but no home runs.
Buehrle started 3 games against the O's last season and had a 1-2 record with a 4.67 ERA. Two of those games were at Camden Yards where he was 1-1.
I'm going to give this one to Norris.
I'd expect the lineup to be pretty much the same as in Tampa Bay. None of the guys on the DL will be back for Friday. Buehrle is a lefty, so expect to see Delmon Young at DH. If I had to pick him to displace someone, it might be Travis Snider, who is 2 for 3 against Buehrle...but compare that to Davis' 6 for 20 and 2 HRs and Pearce's 2 for 5 (both doubles).
It's probably also worth noting this will be Chris Davis' first game back in Baltimore since his suspension started last year. Even though he was suspended for what is technically considered a PED right as the team was getting ready to make a playoff run, from the way I've heard people talking about him my guess is he's going to get far more applause than anything else.
Saturday, April 11th
Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Aaron Sanchez
So this should be interesting. The last time Orioles fans saw Jimenez in Baltimore, he was starting a Tuesday night game, also against the Blue Jays, that just so happened to be the game where an Orioles win would clinch them their first division title in 17 years. Considering the season Jimenez had had up until that point, it was quite the move by Showalter. Jimenez only lasted five innings, giving up two runs and walking four. So yeah, pretty typical start for him. But what about this time around?
In his career, Jimenez is 3-3 with a 4.63 ERA against the Blue Jays. Not great, but I'm more interested to see how he starts the year at home against any opponent. Last year at OPACY he was 3-6 with a 5.49 ERA, giving up 8 HRs and 39(!) walks in only 62.1 innings pitched. That's not going to work. He needs to pitch better, he knows it, the team knows it, and so do we. He had a decent spring so there is hope. Let's see how it goes.
As for Sanchez, he just debuted in July of last year and saw only limited work against the Orioles as a reliever. He figured to be in the rotation even before the injury to Marcus Stroman, now he's just been bumped up a spot. While ZiPS doesn't project him to do much this year (-0.2 WAR), Fangraphs listed him as the Blue Jays' #1 prospect as late as December 2013, ahead of even Stroman. This is a young guy who still has a lot to prove, but certainly has a lot of potential. Still, a 22-yr old making his first career start in unfriendly territory? This is who I would want the Orioles to face on a day Jimenez has to pitch.
Sunday, April 12th
Drew Hutchinson vs Chris Tillman
Ah, Hutchinson. He of the hunched stance and ability to look like Clayton Kershaw against the Orioles. He has a career 4.44 ERA, but against the Orioles? 2.29. Career strikeout to walk ratio of 2.88, but against the Orioles? 5.00. Fortunately, he's been slightly better against them in Toronto than at OPACY, but I still won't like this matchup until the Orioles show they can do more against him. Unfortunately their best hitter against him might be Jimmy Parades, who's on the DL. Steve Pearce is 2 for 7 with a home run...that could work. Hutchinson had a quality start on Opening Day against the Yankees, going six innings and only giving up one run with three strikeouts. The Blue Jays got the win.
Another Opening Day starter, Chris Tillman, also had a good outing his last time up. He went six and two-thirds innings, giving up one run and FOUR strikeouts. Take that, Hutchinson. Unfortunately, Tillman did not pitch great against the Blue Jays last year, going 1-3 with a 4.73 ERA. Encarnacion is 11 for 37 against him with a home run. Bautista is 8 for 28 with 2 home runs.
This will be the first Sunday game for the Orioles this year, a day of the week I remember them being particularly bad on last year, though I had trouble finding the stats to back that up. It's OK guys, I prefer going to night games too.
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All in all, it should be a great series. Both of these teams are very talented. Aside from the power that guys like Bautista, Encarnacion, Davis, and Jones are bringing you've got two of the best (if not the best) third basemen in MLB, Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson. Add that talent to the excitement of a team opening the home season as defending division champs for the first time this century? Sounds like good times...as long as the weather holds out.
Prediction: Orioles win two of three.