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Orioles vs. Red Sox: Series Preview. April 17-20

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How will the Orioles fare in their first matchup against the Red Sox this season?

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles travel to Fenway Park for a four game series against the Red Sox. They've had an OK start to the season with a record of 5-4, and have won two of their first three series. The Red Sox have fared slightly better and have a record of 6-3. This should be a good early test for the O's. A lot of people and the projection systems have picked the Red Sox to win the division this season, so if the Orioles can go up there and at least split the series with them, they'll be in good shape. But let's get to the matchups (projected starters taken from mlb.com):

Friday, April 17th

Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Joe Kelly

I wrote in my preview post for the Blue Jays series last week that Jimenez had a lot to prove in his first start of the season and wow - did he do that in spades. He pitched seven innings, striking out eight and allowing no runs. And for Jimenez, the best stat of the game may be that he only gave up one walk. It would obviously be great to see that from him again, but it may be asking too much. In three career games at Fenway (small sample size disclaimer) he's 0-1 with a 9.45 ERA. He's also only got a Strikeout to Walk Ratio of 0.93, his second lowest in that category of all ballparks. And only one of those starts was last year, so it's not like we can pin it all on that. Let's hope last week wasn't a fluke.

Joe Kelly had a similarly good start to the season last week at New York, pitching seven innings and giving up one run. Kelly is part of the newly re-vamped Red Sox rotation, coming over from the Cardinals last season in the John Lackey trade. He pitched two games against the Orioles after that, going 1-1 with an ERA above 4. His loss was the game in Fenway, so let's hope that continues.

Saturday, April 18th

Chris Tillman vs. Clay Buchholz

Buchholz is the one carry-over starter Boston has from last year's opening day roster. He's been up and down in his career, with last year being a down year. He did OK in first start this year, but got burned for 9 runs in 3.1 innings at Yankee Stadium last week. Both his starts have been so far, so this will be his first one at home. Of course, he's been slightly worse at home over his career. Adam Jones must be looking forward to this matchup, he's 6 for 29 with 3 doubles and 2 home runs. Chris Davis is 6 for 19 with a double and 2 home runs. Overall he's pitched decently against the Orioles in his career though, so this could be interesting.

Tillman is also on his third start of the year. He did pretty well on Opening Day against the Rays, but had a poor outing against the Blue Jays. He's surely looking to rebound against the Red Sox, and may be able to do so. In his career, Tillman is 7-3 with a 2.69 ERA against Boston. But the Red Sox have added a lot of new players without much of a track record against Tillman, so it could be different this time around.

Sunday, April 19th

Miguel Gonzalez vs. Rick Porcello

To once again reference my preview from last week, I said I was worried about Sunday afternoon because I remember the team seemed to have a lot of problems with those games. Well, they didn't prove me wrong. So just based on that, I don't feel good about this game. Will they win on Sunday afternoons from time to time? Of course, but I for one am going to wish for a lot of those to get bumped to the night game on ESPN where they seem to do much better.

For this game though, Miguel Gonzalez is coming in off of a very good start against the Yankees, pitching seven innings and striking out 10, which at the time (and it may still be) was a record high for K's in a game so far this season. This is impressive from Gonzalez, who based on career averages we would only expect to see five strikeouts in seven innings. His numbers against the Red Sox and at Fenway Park for Strikeout to Walk Ratio are a bit lower than his overall career numbers though, so I wouldn't bet on a repeat performance. But despite that he's got a 1.44 career ERA at Fenway to go with a 2-0 record. So this could be more like his first start of the season when he allowed only one run against the Rays over 5.2 innings...hopefully this time he gets more run support.

Porcello has faced the Phillies and the Nationals in his first two starts, two NL teams who rank below average in runs per game so far this season (the Phillies are dead last). Despite this though, he's still given up six earned runs, including 3 HRs. Against a more offensively potent team like Orioles, could he give up more? Maybe, but his Strikeout to Walk Ratio against them is decently high at 3.89 and collectively the Orioles have only gotten 6 HRs against him in 54 innings. But none of those games were at Fenway Park, which traditionally is more hitter friendly than Comerica Park in Detroit, where Porcello pitched previously.

Monday, April 20th

Wei-Yin Chen vs. Justin Masterson

This may be the only game all year with a first pitch time before noon. It's Patriot's Day up in Boston, which is commemorated with battle re-enactments, days off of work and school, the Boston Marathon, and early baseball at Fenway. The Orioles had to play this game last year too...and wouldn't you know it, Wei-Yin Chen started that game as well, and the Orioles won. I'm sure Buck filed that away and set the rotation so he'd pitch it again. (No seriously, I wouldn't put it past him).

I don't like some of the career numbers of Red Sox against Chen:

- Dustin Pedroia: 14 for 27, with 5 doubles and a triple

- David Ortiz: 8 for 21 with double and a HR

There are some others with decent numbers, but like a lot of guys on the Sox this year, they're new and don't have many career numbers against him. So we'll see.

Justin Masterson has gotten a win and a no decision in first two starts this season, but like Porcello, those were against the Phillies and the Nationals and he still got hit for nine earned runs. I like De Aza's numbers against him (11 for 34 with a home run) and in general he doesn't pitch nearly as well against lefties (.792 OPS) as righties (.608 OPS) so expect to see a lefty-heavy lineup for this one from Buck.

Other notes:

- Caleb Jospeh had a multi-hit game in each game of the Yankees series, can he keep it going?

- Brian Matusz is the only member of the O's pen not to be pegged with an earned run this season...how long does that last?

- Xander Bogaerts and Pablo Sandoval both had some injury concerns earlier in the week, so their playing time may be limited in this series.

- Both of those guys (along with Mike Napoli) have yet to record a HR this season. I certainly hope that trend keeps up.

* * *

So after all that, where do we stand? My projection is a split series, 2-2. I was wrong last week when I picked the O's to go 2-1 against the Blue Jays. If they end up on the losing side of my prediction again I may have to stop.