The Yankees' chase for a 28th World Series championship paused on their home turf last October, with Gleyber Torres' slow roller to third base representing the final out of the American League Division Series. The Red Sox sprayed bubbly that night at Yankee Stadium, then twice more on their way to a championship.
Aaron Boone watched every minute, vowing that the outcome would be different in 2019.
"I've always been a fan of the game, so I watched the postseason," the Yankees’ manager said. "This year was a little more difficult, but I made a point even to watch the World Series and watch the Red Sox celebrate. I watched them on the podium. I think that adds a little fuel to the fire."
While anything short of contention would be considered a disappointment in the Bronx, the Orioles will arrive in New York experiencing the opening stages of a transitional period. Baltimore’s roster fields numerous fresh faces after its midsummer trading spree led to an offseason overhaul.
Coming off a 115-loss campaign, the rookie GM/manager tandem of Mike Elias and Brandon Hyde has vowed to rebuild the Orioles from the ground up. This year will represent a learning experience for Baltimore, and there is no better way to begin than by testing its mettle against one of the AL East's behemoths.
“I think the team’s got a little bit of a chip on its shoulder,” Elias said. “We know nobody is predicting us to win a ton of games this year and these guys have a little bit of a chip on their shoulders for that. They’re playing for that and they’re playing for their careers, too.”
When is the game and how can I watch it?
First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET on Thursday. All Yankee Stadium gates will open at 11:00 a.m., with pregame festivities set to begin at approximately 12:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the YES Network in the New York area, MASN2 in the Baltimore area and ESPN out of market. It can also be seen on MLB.TV.
The starting lineups
Orioles: Chris Davis and Trey Mancini are the only holdovers from the lineup that Buck Showalter sent out at this time last year. Davis is looking to turn the page after a rough 2018, while Mancini will try to reclaim his ‘17 form. Cedric Mullins and Renato Nunez are getting chances to improve on last summer’s cameos, while Jonathan Villar is expected to be the catalyst. Joey Rickard should see significant playing time, though he could sit Thursday in favor of the lefty-swinging Dwight Smith.
1) Cedric Mullins, CF
2) Jonathan Villar, 2B
3) Trey Mancini, LF
4) Chris Davis, 1B
5) Renato Núñez, DH
6) Rio Ruiz, 3B
7) Dwight Smith Jr., RF
8) Jesús Sucre, C
9) Richie Martin, SS
Yankees: New York set a Major League record with 267 home runs last season, and Aaron Judge has opined that the 2019 Bombers should "crush" that mark if they remain healthy. Boone had to adjust his projected batting order due to the extended absence of switch-hitting center fielder Aaron Hicks, who likely would have led off if not for a lingering back injury.
1) Brett Gardner, CF
2) Aaron Judge, RF
3) Giancarlo Stanton, LF
4) Gary Sánchez, C
5) Miguel Andújar, 3B
6) Luke Voit, DH
7) Greg Bird, 1B
8) Troy Tulowitzki, SS
9) Gleyber Torres, 2B
Who are the starting pitchers?
Orioles: This would’ve been Alex Cobb, had Cobb not sustained a strained right groin in his final spring tuneup. Instead, Cobb will begin the year on the 10-day injured list and the Orioles will hand the ball to Andrew Cashner, whose only previous Opening Day assignment came in 2014 for the Padres. Cashner went 4-15 with a 5.29 ERA in ‘18, his first year in Baltimore.
Yankees: Masahiro Tanaka is making his fourth Opening Day start for New York, having been pressed into duty due to Luis Severino's right shoulder injury. Season openers have not gone well for Tanaka to this point; he was 0-2 with a 9.49 ERA in the Yanks' openers from 2015-17, allowing 17 hits and four homers in 12 1/3 innings.
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Orioles: Cobb’s injury threw a wrench into the Orioles’ already-in-flux pitching plans. They have not determined their rotation past Opening Day and may use “openers” and bullpen games during the season’s first week. They’ll have to work hard to manage their relief depth Thursday and hope for length from Cashner. They also haven’t named a closer; the highest-leverage situations will fall to the likes of Mychal Givens, Miguel Castro, Richard Bleier and converted starter Nate Karns.
Yankees: Arguably boasting the deepest relief corps in the Majors, Boone will not be shy about picking up the phone at the earliest signs of trouble. Zack Britton, Chad Green and Adam Ottavino project to grab the highest-leverage situations leading to closer Aroldis Chapman.
Any injuries of note?
Orioles: Besides Cobb, the Orioles will open the year with veteran slugger Mark Trumbo on the injured list. Trumbo could miss at least another month while rehabbing from knee surgery.
Yankees: In addition to Hicks and Severino, the Yankees are without Dellin Betances (right shoulder impingement), who could return to the bullpen sometime in April. Shortstop Didi Gregorius (Tommy John surgery) is not expected to return until June at the earliest, among several other injured players who remained behind in Florida.
Who is hot and who is not?
Orioles: The Orioles demoted many of their top spring performers, opting for those young players to begin the year at Triple-A. Smith was among Baltimore’s leading hitters this spring, hitting .429 with five home runs in 12 games after arriving in a trade from Toronto. Still cold is Davis, who hit .189 (7-for-37) with three home runs and 19 strikeouts.
Yankees: Judge enjoyed a sizzling spring, leading the club with six homers while batting .316 (12-for-38). Andujar (.347, 1 HR, 4 RBI), Gardner (.394, 3 HR, 6 RBI), Stanton (.310, 4 HR, 8 RBI) and Torres (.289, 4 HR, 10 RBI) scorched the ball, as did first basemen Bird (.333, 3 HR, 10 RBI) and Voit (.289, 4 HR, 12 RBI).
Anything else fans might want to know?
• This will mark the first regular-season game at the managerial helm for Hyde, who replaced Showalter in November. Hyde spent the past seven seasons in the Cubs’ organization, serving as bench coach under two different skippers.
• The Orioles will make three visits to Yankee Stadium this season, also playing in New York from May 13-15 and Aug. 12-14. The Yankees will play at Camden Yards for the Orioles' home opener on April 4, the first of three games there, and return from May 20-23 and Aug. 5-7.
• New York took the season series from Baltimore in 2018, winning 12 of 19 contests. However, the O's won five of nine games played at Yankee Stadium. New York is 59-35 against the Orioles at the current Yankee Stadium (since 2009).
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.