As Camden Chat discusses every day, Dan Duquette and company still have a lot of work to do before Spring Training and finalization of the roster. However, with arrival in Sarasota and Opening Day rapidly approaching, it’s not too early to look at the schedule and see who, when and where the Birds play in 2018.
The schedule this year offers several interesting wrinkles that will challenge the team from day one. Let’s jump right in and take a look.
March/April – tough sledding
Last year the Orioles leapt out of the gate at a 22-10 clip and hopes were high. In 2018, a repeat hot start will be very difficult simply by the nature of the opponents.
Beginning with Opening Day on March 29, Baltimore plays ten straight games against teams that made the playoffs last year (Twins, Astros, Yankees). After a break with the Blue Jays in Baltimore during mid-April, the trend continues with four games at Boston, another playoff team. All in all, 14 of the O’s first 17 games, as well as 18 total for March and April, are against 2017 playoff teams. 11 of those 18 games are on the road. Yikes.
As the saying goes, you can’t win the pennant in April, but you can lose it. A recent example is Toronto last year with a 10-20 record to start the season. It was a hole they never really recovered from after making the playoffs the previous two seasons. Baltimore’s month one schedule also has 14 games against the AL East, meaning the tone of the division will be set early.
Given the uncertain nature of contracts in Baltimore – Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Zach Britton, Brad Brach, as well as Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette – a fast start is crucial to avoid never ending speculation on potential trades, fire sales, rebuilding, reloading and related topics.
Wins will put the focus on the field, which is where the O’s want attention placed. Easier said than done given the April schedule.
West Coast – two trips
May 1-3 Baltimore plays against the Los Angeles Angels, followed by May 4-6 in Oakland. That is followed by a September 3-5 trip to Safeco Field in Seattle after a weekend series in Kansas City beforehand.
There are no games against the NL West – which is nice given the competiveness of the division, only the San Diego Padres likely won’t be good – but two trips west is certainly tougher than one.
Interleague – weak NL East
The 2018 interleague schedule, paired against the NL East, is a potential bright spot for the Birds. It is likely the weakest division in baseball with the Nationals serving as a clear favorite, Miami about as bad as a team can be and the Mets, Phillies and Braves very middling.
The Battle for the Beltway takes place May 28-31 at Camden Yards and June 19-21 in Washington, DC. Other home games against the National League include May 15-16 against the Phillies, June 15-17 against Miami and August 14-15 hosting the Mets. Road trips include June 5-6 at Citi Field in New York, June 22-24 in Atlanta and July 3-4 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.
There are no games against the NL Central (or the west) and zero inter-league games post August 15. Several of the interleague series are two games, which is unique.
Holidays – I-95, Amtrak
Holidays are always a great time to catch games and 2018 will offer more chances than usual, particularly if you like traveling on I-95 or via Amtrak. Every holiday game, except Labor Day, is in Baltimore or along the east coast corridor.
Opening Day (that’s not a holiday, but it should be) at Camden Yards is Thursday, March 29 against Minnesota. The game on Memorial Day (May 28) is in Baltimore against the Nationals, July 4 is in Philadelphia and Labor Day (September 3) is a match-up in Seattle.
Keeping things close to home, All Star festivities are at Nationals Park over the July 16-19 mid-summer break.
Other highlights and the grind
Other schedule highlights include the final ten games of the season against 2017 playoff teams (Yankees, Boston, Houston) as well as an August (2-5) trip to Arlington, Texas to enjoy the summer lone star heat. The Birds play 16 AL East games in August, the most of any month, and the longest road trip is a May 10-game swing through Boston, Chicago and Tampa.
The 162-game MLB season is a grind. From March 29 through September 30, more than six full months, the Orioles get 24 days off. That’s an average of four per month. As a fan, that’s good because a day with baseball is better than a day without. As a player and coach it’s a beast.
Here’s hoping the Birds start is fast, season is strong and fans of the orange and black have a safe and enjoyable season watching the team at Camden Yards and on the road. It will be a great season to be a fan of MLB living in Baltimore and the greater DMV.