Coming to town for a three-game set beginning tonight are the Boston Red Sox, who currently sit in fourth place in the American League East. They are 11.5 games out of first place and 5.5 games behind the Orioles, who are in third place (one loss behind the Rays).
The Red Sox are a bit of a disaster right now, and that's just the way I like it. But they're still a team with a lot of talent and not one to be taken lightly. Their biggest issue this season has been their pitching. Jon Lester and Josh Beckett have been terrible compared to their past performances, the Daniel-Bard-as-starter experiment has yielded mediocre results, and the surprise addition to their rotation has been Aaron Cook, who seems to alternate between serviceable and awful.
There are more than a few people who think the Boston Red Sox are, despite their woes this season, a better baseball team than the Baltimore Orioles. To these people I say: Scoreboard. Not only do the Orioles have a healthy lead on the Red Sox in both the division and the wild card race, they have beaten the Red Sox six out of nine times so far this season.
Overall, the Red Sox offense is about league average, with an OPS+ of 101. They have the third-best slugging percentage in the AL but much of that is thanks to David Ortiz and Will Middlebrooks, both of whom are on the disabled list. It's said that Ortiz will be back soon, but Middlebrooks is out for the season with a broken wrist. What the Red Sox lost when Ortiz went on the DL in mid-July they gained in Adrian Gonzalez, who has been absolutely on fire the last month. The Red Sox would have done well to have both Ortiz and Gonzo hitting like crazy at the same time. Oh well...
Tuesday: Wei-Yin Chen vs. Josh Beckett
When we last saw Chen, he was getting lit up by the Kansas City Royals on his very own t-shirt day. Before that he strung together five good starts in a row and I'm not worried about him. This will be Chen's third time facing the Red Sox this season. In his first start he was shaky, but he pitched seven good innings with just one run allowed back on June 6th.
Beckett also got rocked in his last start, giving up 8 runs in 5 innings against the Texas Rangers. Unlike Chen, he didn't have a strong run of pitching before that. He did pitch well against the Orioles the last time out, which figures. But his game log for the 2012 season is a big old mess.
Wednesday: Miguel Gonzalez vs. Aaron Cook
Miguel Gonzalez isn't good enough for an SBN tag yet, but he seems to be built out of Orioles magic. He's balancing a lovely 3.42 ERA with a ghastly 5.18 FIP, and despite a less the impressive home run rate, walk rate, WHIP, you name it, he's succeeding. If you think about it, Gonzalez is a microcosm of the Orioles season.
Cook has made 9 starts for the Red Sox this year and, this is no joke, his K/9 is 1. ONE. He's never been a strikeout guy in his career, but I didn't even realize one was possible. He has struck out six guys in 51 2/3 inning. He's walked seven. I don't even know what to do with that information. Cook pitched well against Texas his last time out (he struck out a season-high of 2!), but he has more clunkers this season than beauties.
Cook has been just awful this season against lefties and quite good against righties. That's been the story his whole career, but it's magnified in 2012.
Oh, Chris. I don't know what to do with you. You were terrible against KC after the three-hour rain delay. You've been good against bad offenses, you were bad against the Yankees for only one inning, who knows what's going on with your velocity. WHO ARE YOU?
I know who Clay Buchholz is. He's the guy who threw a no-hitter against the Orioles. He's also probably the Red Sox best starter right now. He struggled early in the season but since June he's been quite good. He's coming off of a complete-game win against the Indians and also pitched a complete-game shutout against the Orioles in June. They knocked him around two other times this season, but both were in May and he's turned it around since then. I don't have much faith in the O's against him (especially with Tillman on the mound), so taking the first two games of the series is pretty important.