The playoffs are the goal as the new season begins in Boston

Welcome to Opening Day 2023. A new season is here. This afternoon at Boston’s Fenway Park, the Orioles begin their 70th season since they began playing in Baltimore in 1954.

New year, new rules, new schedule. It all collides and begins today.

For the third time in four seasons, the year will begin in Boston. The Orioles lost the opener 13-2 at Fenway Park in 2020 but won 3-0 the next year on a three-pitcher two-hitter. John Means went the first seven innings and then Tanner Scott and César Valdez went the last two. The Orioles swept a three-game series by a combined 18-5 score to start that year at 3-0. But they then lost eight of their next 10 on their way to 110 losses.

Things are better now and we’re surely glad for that. The Orioles won 83 games last year, a 31-win improvement, and were the winningest non-playoff team in the American League. They finished three wins out of a playoff spot. This year the goal is to make up those three games and find themselves playing postseason games in October for the first time since the 2016 season.

Right-hander Kyle Gibson, who posted a record of 10-8 with a 5.05 ERA while making 31 starts for the 2022 National League champion Philadelphia Phillies, makes his regular season O’s debut today. In eight career starts versus Boston he is 3-4 with a 3.38 ERA and .604 OPS against. In four career games at Fenway Park, he is 2-1 with a 1.57 ERA and .450 OPS against. So, pretty good.

Some look at an ERA of 5.05 and see, at best, a back-of-rotation starter. And that may prove to be true over time. We’ll see. But I have also pointed out that if Gibson could take away the last month of last year, he has a 3.87 ERA since the start of the 2021 season.

His numbers for the two-year period of 2021 and 2022 through August of last season look pretty darn solid.

During that run, when he made 55 total starts, he produced 33 quality starts, going 19-14 with a 3.87 ERA. His teams were 30-25 in that span. The batting line against him in the 55 games was .235/.305/.375/.680 and his WHIP was 1.21. His walk rate was 2.9 and strikeout rate was 7.5.

I wrote about that here. Gibson is essentially replacing Jordan Lyles in the Baltimore rotation. And it was his good friend Lyles that Gibson sought out before signing with the Orioles. He told me more about that phone call and conversation in this entry.

That is a long run of decent pitching for a hurler who has thrown a combined 349 2/3 innings the past two years.

Boston will start right-hander Corey Kluber (10-10, 4.34 ERA with Tampa Bay in 2022). He won Cy Young Awards with Cleveland in 2014 and 2017. He has finished in the top three in the Cy Young voting four times and has been an All-Star three times, but not since 2018, when he was a 20-game winner for Cleveland.

In the last four years he has pitched for – in order – Cleveland, Texas, the New York Yankees and Tampa. In that span he has a 4.36 ERA, which is nine percent under league average for that time frame. He went 1-3 with a 5.64 ERA in six 2022 starts against Baltimore. For his career, Kluber is 6-4 with a 3.94 ERA versus the Orioles.

The Birds went 9-10 against Boston last year, going 5-4 at home and 4-6 on the road. They are 256-312 all-time at Boston’s Fenway Park.

The Orioles could use a good start in their playoff pursuit after going 7-14 last April. By the end of this April they will have played 28 games, weather permitting. Of those 28, 22 are versus clubs that had a losing record last year and 25 of their first 31 games through May 4 are versus losing-record clubs from last year. None of that means they are going to roll to a bunch of wins. You still have to play the games and you have to play well. But it’s not a long list of accomplished clubs from last season challenging them right now. So the chance for a good start is there if they can just go take it.

Great to have baseball back.

Be checking this space for the O's game blog at some point before first pitch every game. If you are new here, fans comment in real time on the game as it is ongoing each game in our game blog. Stop by just to read their thoughts or add your own.

Radio show is back: Once again this year I will be hosting a postgame radio show on the Orioles' flagship station in Baltimore, WBAL Radio. I am thrilled to be back as the host, and we will be on the air after many, but not all games. For sure, some shows will be missed when I am on the road covering the team, as I will be in Texas. But we will have shows after each of the first three games in Boston, starting today.

It's new at the Yard: Yesterday I covered an event, but not a game, at Oriole Park. It was a chance for local media to see what is new at the ballpark this year, from the field to the food. Click here to take a look at that story.


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