The Orioles will open up a three-game series with the NY Yankees this evening at Camden Yards. I think that few people on either side of the argument would have predicted that the O’s would have been 3-0 and NY 0-3 coming into tonight’s game. In fact, many people might have predicted the polar opposite, and with the Orioles staring a potential 0-6 start directly in the fact at that. However the fact remains that for at least the next couple of weeks the records mean relatively little in every MLB game.
The Orioles will send Brian Matusz to the mound to make his 2012 debut against NY’s Ivan Nova. Again, regardless of the records these are still the Yankees led by Jeter, A-Rod, Swisher, et al. This is the team that is expected to win the AL East, and the team that many are predicting to win the World Series. IF the Orioles truly are the tough-minded and competitive team that we saw over the weekend, they’re going to have to play with the Yankees at some point; might as well be now.
When I say that this is a big series, I mean it more so in the sense of the team’s attitude than I do wins and losses. If the Orioles can take two of three from a “struggling” team and remain masters of their domain, it would help them in the standings but also in terms of confidence. I think they learned last September that they could play with “the big boys,” however this will be their first opportunity to do so in 2012. Again I want to be clear; if the O’s get swept away that doesn’t mean that the season and the good tidings that it’s bringing thus far are over, nor does a series win over NY mean that it continues indefinitely.
As of right now, I’m not thinking of NY as the defending division champions or anything along those lines. I see them as a team that’s coming off of being swept in their opening series, and that might have an aura of desperation about them (if that’s possible this early on). Desperate people can often be dangerous as we know. That said, it might behoove Buck Showalter to remind the Birds of Joe Girardi’s antics last season when it came to rescheduling a rain out. If my memory serves me, he tried to commandeer the game and have it played at Yankee Stadium as opposed to Camden Yards. Nevertheless, the O’s have an opportunity to further cement themselves in the minds of baseball fans everywhere as a team with whom to be reckoned. Showcasing themselves against the Yankees this week is one way to do that.
While fans shouldn’t be overly concerned with the standings in regard to this series, it is worth mentioning the schedule that lies ahead for the Birds. After an off day Thursday the O’s head north of the border for a three-game weekend series in Toronto; Rogers Centre has been a house of horrors for the O’s. Next Monday they open up a four-game series in Chicago with the White Sox, before heading to Anaheim to play the Angels over the weekend of April 20-22nd. That’s A LOT of traveling, and ultimately a ten-game road trip. While the O’s had the luxury of opening up at home, the schedule-makers haven’t exactly been kind in terms of the first road trip. Stockpiling wins at home might not be a bad idea.
Regardless of the rest of the series or the looming road swing, tonight it’s Nova vs. Matusz. As we know Matusz earned his rotation spot this spring, however he’s still coming off of a 1-9 year in which he posted an ERA of 10.69. In his first start of the season, he gets to face Jeter, A-Rod, Texeira, etc. However if he’s able to command his fastball in the mid-90′s, he’ll put the O’s in a position to win. Obviously the other key is that the Birds need to continue to get on base. In three games, they’ve hit eight homers. However let’s not forget that a fielder’s choice-RBI counts as much as a solo HR. So if the Orioles can get guys on base and make Nova and his buddies nervous or out of their element, they’ll have an opportunity to get to them early.