Nelson Cruz lifts Orioles on Opening Day

The Orioles defeated the Boston Red Sox 2-1 on Opening Day yesterday afternoon.

Chris Tillman took on the defending World Series champions, limiting the powerful lineup to 1 run (a Grady Sizemore solo HR) over five innings. While he wasn’t at his sharpest in this outing, he was able to get key outs when he needed them. Tillman will look to build off of a breakout season in 2013 after finishing the season with sixteen wins.

Chris Tillman

Chris Tillman

Nelson Cruz was the brightest spot for the Orioles yesterday, as he began his Baltimore career with a bang. He slammed a decisive home run in the seventh inning off of Red Sox lefty Jon Lester. Cruz, who signed a 1-year $8 million deal late in the offseason, also had a solid day with the glove, getting the start in left field.

The Orioles changed up their infield with the absence of All-Star third baseman Manny Machado, who is hoping to return in a week or two. Ryan Flaherty, who sees most of his playing time at second base, moved over to third to cover for Machado while top prospect Jonathan Schoop played second. Schoop, the #5 Orioles prospect on the MLB.com Prospect Watch, batted ninth and recorded a base hit in a solid Opening Day debut.

Since Tillman only lasted five innings in a game where he was in and out of trouble often, it took four Orioles relievers to close the door on the Sox. Zach Britton (W), Evan Meek, Brian Matusz, and Tommy Hunter all recorded innings on Opening Day. Hunter solidified his new role as closer for Baltimore with a great ninth inning of work to pick up a save. Britton, a long reliever, was the winning pitcher, as he pitched the 6th and 7th innings.

Wednesday’s matchup will feature another new Oriole looking for a good first impression, as Ubaldo Jimenez takes the mound against John Lackey. Jimenez will look the continue his success from the second half of last season with the Indians, when he was one of the best starters in the American League.

The success of Jimenez is critical for the Baltimore Orioles’ playoff hopes. While the Orioles clearly have one of the top lineups in all of baseball, the rotation will need to perform better than it did last year if the Orioles hope to either win the AL East or the AL Wild Card. If Jimenez pitches like he did after the break in 2013, the Orioles will have gained a valuable top of the rotation presence that could take the ball in ¬†game #1 in the postseason.

Injury Notes:

Despite a nagging neck injury, right fielder Nick Markakis was included in the Opening Day lineup, batting leadoff and going 0-4. After a few days of experiencing spasms in his neck, Markakis should be good to go from here on, and will most likely be included in the lineup again on Wednesday.

Manny Machado continues his rehab from offseason knee surgery, and is eligible to be reinstated from the 15-day DL on April 6, although it has become clear that it will most likely take at least a few days in additional rehab following the sixth.