The Orioles come home after their road trip to Boston and Toronto. It couldn't come at a better time either. After doing OK in Boston, splitting the series 2-2, the Orioles got swept by the Blue Jays and have now lost four in a row. They never lost more than that in a row last season, so hopefully they can get the win on Friday and avoid a five game losing streak this early in the season. The team is hardly at full strength right now with Wieters, Hardy, and now Schoop hurt and some guys (like Pearce) struggling to get into a rhythm almost a month in.
The bottom line is despite some offensive struggles and some defensive issues, their pitching looks...well, it's actually worse than last April. Through 16 games last year, they scored 66 runs, vs. 76 this year. But they only allowed 65 runs through 16 in 2014. This year they've allowed 84. Every starter in the rotation has struggled, and currently they have more starts of less than six innings than any other team in the majors. The bullpen hasn't helped them out either. Can they start putting it back together this weekend?
The pitching matchups in the first two games for this series match the second two from their series last week, which I wrote about here. Gonzalez pitched OK in that game, going five innings and giving up three earned runs. Fortunately, Porcello did worse, giving up eight earned runs in five innings and the Orioles got the win (their last one). Gonzalez has arguably been the best starter for the Orioles this season (maybe Jimenez?) going at least five innings in each start. He'll need to do that again (or hopefully better) to help out this bullpen. Also, I think the Orioles may benefit from being back home and can rough up Porcello again.
Wei-Yin Chen did not pitch well in the Monday morning game, though the weather was a factor the entire time and it was eventually cut short. Still, I wrote last week how I didn't really like some of the Red Sox numbers against Chen, and that may come into play again. Masterson pitched much better, giving up one earned run in five innings.
Bud Norris vs. Wade Miley
There's no getting around this, Bud Norris has not pitched well this season. Some have wondered if he might get moved to the bullpen. For someone making almost $9M this season, that could be a tough move for the team to make. But how much longer can they keep sending him out there? Kevin Gausman has looked much better after a rough start, but its still hard to see them giving up on Norris this early. He'll definitely be pitching in this game though. Pedroia's 2 for 9 against him. Pablo Sandoval's 2 for 10. Norris has generally pitched well against the AL East...let's hope he figures it out again for this game.
Wade Miley is 1-1 this season with a 6.08 ERA. He's only given up one Home Run, but has nine walks to go with ten strikeouts. The Orioles have been doing a better job with getting walks this season, so that may be something to watch out for. He's never pitched in Camden Yards, but is an above average pitcher when it comes to inducing ground balls, so I'm not sure the hitter's park that is OPACY is going to worry him too much. He's a lefty, so he does do slightly worse against right-handed batters. Hopefully the Orioles can take advantage with guys who do much better against left-handed pitching like Steve Pearce and Delmon Young.
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Sweeping a good team like the Red Sox, even at home, may be asking for too much. So what do they need to do to get two of three and win the series?
- Stop the bleeding. Like I said, this team didn't lose five in a row at all last season. Preventing that and winning Friday night should get them off to a good start and give them back some confidence. On a personal note, I'll be at this game with some out of town friends from Boston. Last time I brought non-Orioles fans to a game, it was last August against the Yankees. Despite a bad start and Manny Machado's season-ending injury, the Orioles rallied to win that game and my Yankees friend left with his head shaking. I'd really like to see that happen again.
- Continue scoring runs. The offense just hasn't been that much of a problem. The Red Sox pitchers, like the Orioles staff, is full of a serviceable guys but no one who should be too much of a concern. They're third in the league in OPS+, so they are hitting the ball well. With the Orioles pitching not at their best, the offense is going to need to step up and put up a lot of runs. Getting out to some early leads will help calm everyone down, and give the fans a reason to stay in the game.
- Take advantage of opportunities. The Orioles have already left 101 men on base this year and are hitting .293 with runners in scoring position. Improving those numbers can go a long way to helping the team win.
- Play better defense. Even though they lost last night, they thankfully broke a streak of five straight games with an error. Committing errors is not what this team is about. Again, with Hardy and Schoop out we can't expect this defense to be at its best, but I think they can do better and I fully expect Buck to keep tinkering with the lineup until he finds a group that can work together.
The Red Sox followed up their series against the O's by losing two of three to the Rays at the Trop. so they're going to be looking to rebound just as much as the Orioles. But if I'm looking for an X-Factor in this series, it's got to be Adam Jones. He put up two more hits last night, He's gotten a hit in 11 out of his last 13 games, and is among the league leaders in batting average, home runs, and RBIs. The Red Sox don't have anyone nearly as hot as him right now.
I'm not going to make a prediction for this series, but this is still largely the same team that won 96 games last year. It's hard to believe they're going to fall any further under .500.