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Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles @ Boston Red Sox, 17-19 September 2013

3-4 over their last seven games, the O's continue their final road trip of the season, with three games against the division-leading Red Sox before heading to Tropicana Field.

Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately, going 3-4 over any stretch just isn't going to get it done anymore. The Orioles are fortunate that Boston beat up on the Yankees for them, but they're still two games behind the Rangers (who after their loss to Tampa Bay last night hold the second Wild Card), 1.5 behind the Indians, and just half a game ahead of the Yankees and Royals. If they're going to do this, they'll have to do well against the Red Sox, against whom they play six of their remaining thirteen games.

Tuesday, 17 September: Scott Feldman vs. Ryan Dempster
Career Numbers Feldman vs. Red Sox Dempster vs. O's
IP 28.0 31.1
ERA 4.50 2.01
FIP 4.70 4.24
Slash Line (Past Teams) .272/.325/.412 .184/.268/.298
Slash Line (Current Players) .376/.413/.624 .197/.283/.299

Since 3 August, Feldman has really settled down and been one of the more reliable Oriole pitchers. He hasn't given up more than three runs in a start since that date, and he's managed to go at least seven innings in each of his last three starts. Many of the teams he faced in that stretch have not had the most intimidating offenses, though; whether he can sustain that success against a stronger Boston lineup (look at that slash line against!) remains to be seen.

It's hard to tell whether Dempster has been good or just lucky in his limited action against the O's. Two factors suggest some favorable luck: that FIP indicates that his ERA should be a full two points higher, and the Orioles' BABIP in those 114 at-bats is a mere .200 (meaning they probably should have gotten about 50% more hits than they did). He's already faced the O's three times this year, and he's given up two or fewer runs in each outing, despite not finishing the sixth inning in two of those.

Maybe hot: David Ortiz (2 HR & 1.643 OPS, 10 PA), Mike Napoli (1.098 OPS, 27 PA)

Likely not: J.J. Hardy (.292 OPS, 37 PA), Matt Wieters (.282 OPS, 11 PA)

Wednesday, 18 September: Wei-Yin Chen vs. Jake Peavy
Career Numbers Chen vs. Red Sox Peavy vs. O's
IP 28.0 13.0
ERA 5.14 2.77
FIP 4.13 1.48
Slash Line (Past Teams) .306/.355/.495 .208/.255/.250
Slash Line (Current Players) .321/.385/.568 .210/.291/.410

Chen has struggled over his last four outings, recording just one quality start in that span (against the White Sox). We've all gotten used to Chen looking worse in the box score than he pitches, often because Buck Showalter tries to get an extra inning out of him. That hasn't been the problem of late, though, as he's just failed to get the job done. His peripherals over that stretch tell an odd story: in those four starts, he's struck out 27 in 20 IP(!), but has also walked ten and given up five home runs. Since two of those starts were against the Yankees, I wasn't able to watch him pitch, so reader(s?), has Chen looked to be doing anything different lately?

Peavy has pitched very well against the Orioles in his two career starts against them. One of those was in 2007, and the other was last year. He hasn't pitched as well as you might like since joining the Red Sox in terms of peripherals - yes, his ERA (3.66) and FIP (3.88) are fairly close, but he has an extremely low groundball rate (28.9%) and a lucky HR/flyball ratio (6.7%, league average ~10%). That just isn't going to hold up, and only has because it's a pretty small sample (51.2 innings).

Maybe hot: Dustin Pedroia (1.523 OPS, 15 PA)

Likely not: Jacoby Ellsbury (.600 OPS, 10 PA), J.J. Hardy (.378 OPS, 17 PA)

Thursday, 19 September: Chris Tillman vs. John Lackey
Career Numbers Tillman vs. Red Sox Lackey vs. O's
IP 50.1 149.2
ERA 2.15 3.49
FIP 2.86 3.55
Slash Line (Past Teams) .214/.284/.283 .267/.310/.397
Slash Line (Current Players) .183/.255/.244 .265/.314/.404

Tillman finally gave up a homer against the Red Sox on 29 August, but that was the only real blemish on a seven-inning, eight strikeout performance. His overall numbers against Boston are still great, and he's gone seven-plus innings in four of his last five starts. Tillman's last outing was a complete-game loss on the road: eight inings, four runs allowed. That isn't great, but it saved the bullpen for a day and was good enough to give the O's a fighting chance.

Lackey's hit some bumps in the road of late, as in back-to-back starts against the Yankees, he gave up a total of eleven runs in twelve innings. Prior to that, his last bad start was on 11 August, and even that was a four-run, seven-inning effort. It's hard to find too much to say about Lackey, really: in his four years with Boston, this is the first in which he's been healthy and effective and has had the results match his peripherals.

Maybe hot: Chris Davis (1.234 OPS, 28 PA), Shane Victorino (1.053 OPS in 12 PA)

Likely not: Matt Wieters (.370 OPS, 27 PA), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.188 OPS, 16 PA), David Ortiz (.231 OPS, 13 PA)

Not playing a regular is the biggest fine you can level against him. - Earl Weaver