In recent weeks, the Orioles have seemed to have very little luck in gaining ground on their division rivals, mostly because every time they win, those other teams also seem to win, and when those other teams lose, they seem to lose as well. With the Red Sox coming into town to kick off a four-game series starting Thursday night, the O's finally have their chance to take games directly.
Take the unlikely scenario of an Orioles four-game sweep and they would be a half-game ahead of the Red Sox at the end of the series. They won't win four straight games, because this Orioles team doesn't do sweeps. They are not guaranteed to win or even tie the series. But every game is an opportunity to gain ground. A four-game sweep in the wrong direction and the Orioles would find themselves 7.5 games out of the division lead.
Guess what tonight brings? If you guessed another relatively soft-tossing lefty in Felix Doubront, the Red Sox starter, you're absolutely right. His fastball averages 90.1mph, according to Fangraphs, meaning that all hope should be abandoned. For every fastball he throws below 90, the Orioles' chances of victory decrease. Or so it probably seems.
Doubront hasn't seen the Orioles yet this year, but pitched three games against them last year, giving up six runs in 20 innings. The story of his 2013 has been a lot of walks - one every other inning - but we already know that the Orioles are good at not taking walks against guys who walk a million batters. The .356 BABIP could be bad luck that will turn around, or he could have that Jake Arrieta Syndrome of just making bad pitches. In any case, 63 strikeouts in 61.1 IP is no joke.
The Red Sox will be getting their first look at Kevin Gausman. Look, we've seen the good and what's currently not so good with Gausman over his first four starts. It's hold on to your butts territory from the first pitch of the game. He might blow 99mph fastballs past the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury, or he may lack command, walk a bunch of guys, then start giving up bombs.
Boston has the highest walk rate for its batters of any team in MLB. They hit for nearly as much power as do the Orioles. By some advanced measures like wOBA and wRC+, Boston has the best offense in all of MLB. By more simple measures like, "Who has scored the most runs?" Boston also has the best offense in all of MLB. Funny how well those line up sometimes.
The weather will probably not be an issue tonight, unless it suddenly is. I'm a blogger, not a meteorologist.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||BOSTON RED SOX|
|Jacoby Ellsbury - CF||Nate McLouth - LF|
|Shane Victorino - RF||Manny Machado - 3B|
|Dustin Pedroia - 2B||Nick Markakis - RF|
|David Ortiz - DH||Adam Jones - CF|
|Mike Napoli - 1B||Chris Davis - 1B|
|Daniel Nava - LF||Matt Wieters - C|
|Jarrod Saltalamacchia - C||J.J. Hardy - SS|
|Will Middlebrooks - 3B||Danny Valencia - DH|
|Stephen Drew - SS||Ryan Flaherty - 2B|