The Orioles will play their first home game (in front of a paying crowd) in 15 days tonight when they open up a nine-game, 11-day homestand at Camden Yards against the Toronto Blue Jays
Yes, it definitely seems like it's been forever since the Orioles have played a normal game inside the friendly confines of Oriole Park. And for the Orioles, who flew back to Baltimore from New York on Sunday night, it feels like an eternity.
"I haven't counted it up yet, but it feels like we've been on the road for a month," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said before Sunday's game. "It does, even though we've been in the city some but not playing games. … I think everybody is looking forward to getting back and getting on the field and getting back to the city, without a doubt, for the right reasons."
It will be interesting to see what kind of crowd the Orioles get tonight. It's a Monday night, and despite the simmering rivalry between the Orioles and Blue Jays, Toronto hasn't been a big draw. The Orioles also aren't playing their best baseball, having lost five of six on their trip to New York City. Some of the more worrisome fans are already in panic move.
"I'm curious," Showalter said. "There's no anxiety to it. I think it's going to be something that's going to make hopefully everyone feel better."
A group of fans is making a grassroots effort to draw Orioles fans to tonight's game, labeling it "ReOpening Day" and organizing through Facebook and Twitter. The organizer of that effort likened it to the Fantastic Fans Night that drew 50,402 to Memorial Stadium to welcome the Orioles back home after they snapped their record, 21-game losing streak to open the 1988 season.
I asked Showalter about a couple of plays that ended up being pivotal in Sunday's 6-2 loss to the Yankees. The Yankees scored four runs in the fourth inning and there was a mental mistake by an Orioles outfielder on two run-scoring plays.
On Didi Gregorius' RBI single to right, Delmon Young – who has played well defensively – overthrew cutoff man J.J. Hardy. Chase Headley, the runner at third, held there before seeing Young's throw, then had plenty of time to trot home
"If you're able to get the ball into J.J.'s hands, then we've got a lot of options to us," Showalter said. "Anytime if we make a throw and we can get the ball to the cutoff man, but I think Delmon going glove side, having to spin, he wouldn't have had a play at the plate, but he had a play at third. He would have if he kept going. I think the trail runner saw that he stopped going into third, but the decision-making he has to make in the outfield is not catch a ball and see what the third base coach is doing. ... He played solid right field for us the whole trip."
On the next play of the game, Jacoby Ellsbury rocketed a liner to left field that Alejandro De Aza broke late on and the ball sailed over his head, allowing two runs to score.
"I'd have to look at it," Showalter said. "You guys have a better look. One of the worst views in this park in the dugout. It's not very well designed … sometimes it's not that you broke in and broke back, it's that you didn't break back initially. That's a tough ball at you. That's the one that, I've seen him make that play. He didn't today.
"That was a ball up that they scalded, too."
Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez will get the start tonight for the Orioles against the Blue Jays. He had one great start against them in his regular season debut on April 11 at Camden Yards. He also had his worst outing against the Jays on April 22 at the Rogers Centre.
Jimenez tossed seven shutout innings, allowing just one hit with eight strikeouts and one walk in a 7-1 win in the Orioles' second home game of the season.
Two outings later, Jimenez lasted just five innings, allowing four runs on six hits, striking out six and walking three in a 4-2 loss to the Jays.
Jose Bautista, who will certainly get his share of boos at Camden Yards, is hitting .069 (2-for-29) with no homers and no RBIs and six strikeouts against Jimenez. Josh Donaldson is a career .083 hitter (1-for-12) against Jimenez in his career. Edwin Encarnacion is just 6-for-28 against him, a .214 average.