Nobody in Tampa Bay had much luck stopping Orioles first baseman Chris Davis. Can the Twins slow him down when Baltimore heads back home?
Davis will enter Friday's series opener against Minnesota coming off on an incredible series at the plate against the Rays. He went 7-for-11 with six extra-base hits, 11 RBIs and a homer in each of the three games -- the first Orioles player to homer in the first three games of the season since Frank Robinson in 1966. It came as the Orioles won two out of three at Tropicana Field.
Right-hander Jake Arrieta will start Baltimore's home opener for the third straight year, while Twins right-hander Liam Hendriks will get the first crack at the red-hot Davis and the rest of Baltimore's lineup on Friday afternoon at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
"I feel comfortable in the box. We've had a few runners on when I'm up at the plate, which is always fun 'cause if you get a hit, those guys are going to score," Davis said Thursday. "When you feel good at the plate, when things are going right for you, you're going to get those hits. I'm just trying to keep it rolling.
"It's awesome, but at the same time, it's about winning baseball games. I've just been trying to keep it simple, do my job. We have a lot of guys in this lineup that can do a lot of things with the bat, and we've proven that over the last three days."
Davis became the first player since at least 1916 to drive in three or more runs in his first three games of the year. The last player to record 11 RBIs through three games was Philadelphia's Dolph Camilli, who recorded 12 over three games in 1935, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Davis was crushing everything the Rays threw his way this week.
To stop him, Hendriks will have to keep up what his fellow rotation mates started in their series victory over the Tigers. Minnesota made it a point of emphasis this offseason to improve its starting pitching, and Vance Worley, Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey delievered with a combined 2.45 ERA over 18 1/3 innings, though they combined for only six strikeouts.
Hendriks hasn't experienced much success at the Major League level despite his impressive Minor League numbers, as he posted a 5.59 ERA in 16 starts with the Twins last year. he has only one Major League victory.
And his first test of 2013 won't be an easy one. The Orioles swept the Twins to open last season and went on to win 93 games, stunning the American League and reaching the postseason.
"We take credit for them getting off to a good start. We gave them confidence," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said laughing. "We saw them a bunch in Spring Training, and they have a good baseball team. But you never know what will happen out of Spring Training. They got off on a good run and had good vibes going. They played with a lot of enthusiasm, and what has to happen is a few players have to have to big years and young players have to step up -- and that happened.
"They have that under their belt, and they're confident. We saw that again in Spring Training. They're a confident group, and they can do some things. So it'll be entertaining going in there and playing them. They're a good baseball team."
Twins: Willingham leads homer charge again
• Josh Willingham hit the Twins' first home run of the season for the second straight year on Thursday. He opened 2012 with a home run on April 6 at Baltimore. Thursday's longball was the 23rd of his career in 77 games at Target Field, putting him second behind Jim Thome, who hit 24.
• Justin Morneau has reached base seven times in 13 plate appearances this season, posting a .538 on-base percentage through three games.
• The Twins haven't won a road opener since beating the White Sox on April 10, 2009 at U.S. Cellular Field. They opened last year in Baltimore and lost, 4-2.
Orioles: Festivities planned for home opener
• The Orioles will open their home park at noon Friday to give fans plenty of time to arrive and enjoy the events leading up to the club's 2013 debut at home. Fans will receive a schedule/car magnet at the gate, see roving musical groups at Eutaw Street and the main concourses and watch "The BUCKle Up Birds: An Underdog Story" on the center field video board beginning around 1:10 p.m.
Pregame ceremonies will start at 2:30 p.m., hosted by MASN's Jim Hunter. Orioles players and coaches will be introduced before the game, with the players running through the center field gate on an orange carpet and lining up on the field. One fan will be chosen as the club's "10th man" for the 20th straight season, and he or she will be introduced as part of the Orioles' starting lineup.
J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters will be presented with their 2012 Rawlings Gold Glove Awards before Friday's game as well.
• Second baseman Brian Roberts left Thursday's game in the top of the ninth with a right hamstring injury and will undergo an MRI on Friday. Roberts said he "felt something kind of pop in the back of my knee," but didn't know exactly what happened.
• Only three players in Major League history have homered in four straight games to start the season: San Francisco's Willie Mays in 1971, St. Louis' Mark McGwire in 1998 and Texas' Nelson Cruz in 2011. Davis has a chance to join that elite group Friday.
• Twins center fielder Aaron Hicks recorded his first career hit and RBI on Thursday, driving in two runs on an eighth-inning single to right field off reliever Brayan Villareal.