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Orioles vs. Red Sox: Series Preview

The Orioles return home and get back to division play against the Red Sox. Can they continue the success they found in Cleveland?

Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The Story So Far:

A road trip that started off badly for the Orioles ended well as they won three of their last four. The offense seemed to pick back up and they'll need that to continue if they want to keep winning. This is definitely a critical series for both teams, who are tied at 5.5 games behind the division leading Yankees. A sweep by either team could come close to putting away the other this late in the season.

While the Orioles are currently under-playing their pythagorean expectation by two games, the Red Sox are over-playing it by three - they've allowed 43 more runs than they've scored this year. Their pitching has perhaps been worse than anyone expected. As an Orioles fan, you have to hope the Orioles lineup can take advantage back in the hitter-friendly confines of Camden Yards. Of course, the Red Sox are no strangers to playing in Baltimore and have some heavy hitters themselves, so the O's pitching will need to be at least as good as they have been lately (preferably better).

Pitching Matchups:

Tuesday: Miguel Gonzalez vs. Eduardo Rodriguez






















Really? We have to face this guy already? I thought we'd get at least a season before having to regret trading Rodriguez away. In case you need a reminder, the Orioles traded Rodriguez away last year at the trading deadline for Andrew Miller. At the time, Rodriguez was (I think) the #3 pitching prospect the Orioles had (behind Dylan Bundy and Hunter Harvey) but he was hardly lighting the world on fire in the minor leagues.

Of course, much like Jake Arrieta before him, another team got him, tweaked his mechanics, and now he pitches lights out. I don't think it was in the Red Sox plan to move up to the big leagues this season, but the already mentioned terrible pitching kind of forced their hand. I think his numbers speak for themselves. If you're looking for a reason to hope this won't continue, look at Mike Wright. He was called up for his major league debut this season, pitched two outstanding games, and then started falling apart a little. The same thing could happen for Rodriguez.

Gonzalez has been pitching OK lately. Honestly, it's the kind of performance I think we should expect from him. In a vacuum, he's a #3/#4 starter. Despite being the only O's starter with a winning record, his performance really has him as more like the #3 guy (behind Chen and Jimenez). His problem lately has been giving up home runs. He only gave up three in his first five starts, but has given up eight in his last six outings.

Unfortunately, those three in his first five games were given up the Red Sox. He seems to be having problems with righties the most, eight of his home runs this year have been given up to them. This gives me some hope for this game, since it's the left-handed batters who get the short field to the flag court. Hanley Ramirez has done most of the damage this year, so watch out for him.

Wednesday: Wei-Yin Chen vs. Rick Porcello






















That record for Chen is really terrible - he's been pitching much better than that. In fact, the Orioles are 5-1 in games he's started but didn't get a decision. One of those non-decisions was against the Red Sox in Baltimore, when the Orioles won 5-4 on the Lough walk-off home run.

If he wants to win this game, he should just intentionally walk Dustin Pedroia every time. Pedroia is a career .462 hitter against Chen in 36 plate appearances, which includes five doubles. Sometimes a guy just has your number, and while there's no home runs in that record, that's still a lot of times you risk putting someone on base or letting him drive in a run. Obviously this is situational, but if there's a guy already in scoring position for the Sox and you have a base open, maybe just walk him. Managers do it all the time for power hitters, why not a guy who's just as likely to drive in a run or two with a double?

The thing about Porcello's record that really sticks out for me is that he's only not given up an earned run in one start this season. He's given up 6+ three times. He's still averaging more than six innings a start though and hasn't pitched less than 90 pitches in any of his starts, so don't expect him to get pulled very early even if the Orioles can get to him. Some of the Orioles lineup have good records against him too - J.J Hardy is 8 for 20, Machado is 5 for 15, and Chris Davis is 6 for 23 including three home runs. Davis was hitting pretty well the last time he was in Baltimore, can he repeat?

Thursday: Chris Tillman vs. Wade Miley






















Tillman's last start was...OK? He got over 100 pitches in a quality start in a game the Orioles would win. I guess it's hard to complain about that, but I'd like to see more. Go seven innings, have more strikeouts than walks, perform like you actually want that long-term contract from the team. I think that's been my problem with everyone on the team this year - sometimes it feels like they have a playoff hangover, like they figured last year was pretty good with the division title and ALCS appearance and all, so why not just coast through this year?

It's not just Tillman...pretty sure every one of Machado's errors this year have been because he was trying to show off his arm. Travis Snider might be the most disengaged person on the planet. David Lough steals bases about as well as I would. And I'm just going to give you two words before moving on: Davis and strikeout. (Yes, I just praised Davis in one paragraph and put him down in the next one...that's just the kind of player he is)

Kind of the opposite of Wei-Yin Chen, Wade Miley has gotten a decision in all but one of his starts. None of them have been all that terrible, save for...oh yeah. In case you've forgotten (I had) Miley was the starter in that 18-7 beat down the Orioles handed the Red Sox on April 26th. He lasted 2.1 innings but gave up six earned runs. That was the last time he saw the O's and you have to imagine it's going to be in his head a little bit. Too bad this game won't be on a Sunday afternoon.

Other Notes:

- All three of these games are at night, when the Orioles are 12-21 this year. That just seems weird to me. I don't have the numbers on 2014, but I watched a lot of those games and I distinctly remember them having more problems with daytime games. I can think of almost no reason why it would really matter to a professional ballplayer whether the game is at night or in the afternoon, but when you play most of your games at 7:05 your routine would be centered around that and that's when you'd be most comfortable and playing your best. I don't know - something to keep an eye on.

- I kind of want to ask what happened to Jimmy Paredes, but I think already know the answer: regression. Paredes was never projected to be a leading player on this team and while his hot start was nice, it hasn't held up and I think we may need to realize this is the player he's going to be. In his last 14 games, he's hitting .176 with no home runs. And that's with a .281 BAPIP, which is not terrible. The problem is that prior to that, his BAPIP was .416. We probably should have seen this coming.

I previewed the DHs of the AL East before the season started and wrote this about David Ortiz: "As long as he continues to stay healthy, he appears on track to remain one of the best hitters in the division." Well, his health hasn't been an issue (as far as we know), but his performance has...he's .219/.298/.375 with six home runs. That puts him on track for something like 17, which would be his lowest total since coming to Boston. Of course, Orioles pitchers have given up the second most home runs in the AL this season, so there's always opportunities to improve.

- The Red Sox are below average in a lot of offensive categories, but one thing they continue to do well is get walks. Chris Tillman leads the Orioles with 31 walks surrendered this season, so this could be a critical thing to watch for when he pitches. If he can limit walks, I'd bet he can get through six or seven innings and get the win. But if he starts putting men on for Hanley Ramirez or Mike Napoli, lookout.

- I don't think there's anyone in the Red Sox bullpen to worry about - this isn't like the Astros or Yankees. The Orioles lineup should really focus (as always, but maybe even more) about working counts and trying to get the starter out.

- The picture I picked for this article is of the Orioles outfielders hugging after the win this weekend. What happened to the coordinated jump? Could the new guys not do it? (looking at you, Travis Snider) Did MLB/Orioles tell them to stop because they were worried someone would get hurt? If we can vote on bobble-heads, can't we vote on what they do if they're not going to jump? I'm just not a fan of whatever that new thing is.


Here's the thing - I'm a logical, rational person. I'm an engineer. I work at NASA. I know that superstitions are ridiculous and have absolutely no impact on what really happens. But I've been so bad at picking who's going to win these series so far this year, that it's in my head now. I had a whole streak of picking the Orioles to win, only to see them lose. Then last week I predicted they'd drop two of three to the Indians only to have them win the series. I think overall the Orioles are a better team than the Red Sox - I should pick them to win, right? Nope - superstitions are a part of sports, for better or for worse. I'm picking them to lose two of three. You're welcome.