Less than even a year ago, who would have believed that a game between the Baltimore Orioles and St. Louis Cardinals would feature John Lackey pitching for the Cards against Nelson Cruz of the O’s? Add to the story that the starting pitcher for the home team at Camden Yards would be Ubaldo Jimenez!
Or look back even just a month ago on July 5th of this year. The Orioles beat John Lackey in a game where Cruz was 5-for-5; and though the thought of seeing Lackey again this season was certain, nobody was thinking it would be with St. Louis.
You may recall the game in July as being one with some spicy remarks afterword. Reminding you of the scene, this was the game where Nelson attempted to stretch his fifth hit – his second double of the game – into a triple to gain the cycle. He also stole a base, becoming the only visiting player at Fenway along with Ty Cobb and Jimmie Foxx to have five hits, a homer, and a stolen base.
In postgame remarks, Lackey said of Cruz, “I’m not even going to comment on him, I’ve got nothing to say about him. There are some things that I would like to say, but I’m not going to. You guys forget pretty conveniently about stuff.”
This was obviously a not-so-veiled reference to the suspension Cruz served in 2013. It all seemed very odd coming from a player who is not exactly near the top of the short list of pending saints, given his own controversy of walking away from a wife in the midst of battling breast cancer.
The Orioles have actually beaten Lackey twice this year, though over his career he is 14-7 with a 3.70 ERA against the Birds. His wins include giving the Orioles their first loss of this season on April 4th.
So it is not surprising that many O’s hitters have a long history against the big, ugly man. Nick Markakis is hitting .328 in 71 at-bats. Cruz, Chris Davis, and Manny Machado each have a pair of home runs off Lackey, as Cruz is 12-for-36, Davis 11-for-37, and Machado 7-for-18. Adam Jones has three homers off him, but is hitting a more modest .255 on 13-for-51. Delmon Young is 7-for-22 and Jonathon Schoop 4-for-6. Since Showalter knows all of these numbers, let me predict this lineup today…
Markakis – 9
Machado – 5
Jones – 8
Cruz – 7
Davis – 3
Young – DH
Hardy – 6
Joseph – 2
Schoop – 4
<<Editor’s update note — just switch Young and Hardy above, and you’ve got the official lineup… I like it.>>
Adding to the intrigue about today’s game is the return of Ubaldo Jimenez. The last time he pitched for the Baltimore Orioles was … wait for it … yes … July 5th – the same game referenced above.
Here is a scary statistic: Even though Jimenez has not pitched in five weeks, he stills leads the league in walks. Oh boy. He walked six on that day in 3.2 innings. Who knows what to expect on this day?
One thing for sure … If this evening we know that Jimenez is back to his form from a year ago, and if Cruz breaks out of his slump with Davis also getting another hit or two, there really is a return of Orioles magic.