This afternoon, at 3:10, live from decrepit Tropicana Field (move already, Tampa Bay!), the Baltimore Orioles begin their quest to bring a second consecutive AL East crown to Charm City. This will be the fifth time in eight seasons that the Orioles face the Rays on Opening Day. The clubs have split the first four matchups in the ongoing Opening Day series. The Orioles send Chris Tillman to the hill while the Rays counter with Chris Archer.
Last year on Opening Day, the Orioles produced a 2-1 win over the Red Sox, buoyed by the now-departed Nelson Cruz’s go-ahead solo home run in the seventh inning. Zach Britton got the win, and Tommy Hunter the save, before the two relievers swapped roles later in the season.
Baltimore went 12-7 against a Tampa Bay team that would finish the 2014 season with a 77-85 record. After the loss of Andrew Friedman, Joe Maddon, Wil Myers, and Ben Zobrist, the Rays are expected to take another step back in 2015.
A win or a loss on Opening Day does not make or break a season in any way, shape, or form, but a win does set the tone and starts the season on a positive note. The Orioles play their first 19 games this season against division opponents. Division titles are not won in April, but they can be lost. With that many division games, the Orioles must get off to a strong start, and that starts today against a team they should beat in the Rays.
Here are my three keys to victory as the Orioles take on Tampa Bay.