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Orioles vs. Red Sox: Series Preview

The Orioles welcome the Red Sox to town in showdown to avoid last place. After taking four of six from playoff bound teams like the Yankees and Royals, the Orioles should have no problem with this series, right? Right?

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Story So Far:

The Orioles are trying to avoid a complete meltdown as the season ends after winning another series against a playoff team, the Kansas City Royals. They scored 28 runs in that series. In four games in last year's ALCS, they scored 12. Go figure.

The Red Sox have been better as of late as well. They're 7-3 over their last ten, though they still remain in last place in the division where they've been for most of the season. A sweep of the Orioles would get them out of that hole.

Pitching Matchups:

Monday: Kevin Gausman vs. Eduardo Rodriguez

Well this should be interesting - the prospect the Orioles kept vs. the one they traded away. True, Gausman was ahead of Rodriguez in the minor league system, so it may not be a really fair comparison, but it's still crazy that a little over a year ago both these guys were in the minors for the Orioles. Rodriguez has had an up and down season since being called up in May, but right now he seems to be on his game (3-0 and 1.79 ERA in his last four starts). Gausman has been more down than up this season but certainly has the ability to come out strong at any time. This one should be fun.

Tuesday: Ubaldo Jimenez vs. Joe Kelly

Joe Kelly has won eight straight starts, the first Red Sock to do so since Pedro Martinez in his dominant '99-'00 stretch (Pedro won nine total). Kelly's turnaround since being demoted to the minors has been impressive, as he has pitched to an 2.59 ERA since August first. The Orioles have faced him twice this year, and in the second of those games they knocked him around for five runs in 3 1/3 inning pitched. It was after that game that Kelly was demoted.

Since the Orioles' season has gone to that place where they have no chance of making the playoffs, the games have all started to blend together a little for me. So it might be easy to overlook that Jimenez actually turned in a good outing against the Yankees with 7 IP, 8Ks, and 0 BBs his last time out. He's had two starts against the Red Sox this season, one win and one ejection. Remember that game? So ridiculous.

Wednesday: Mike Wright vs. Henry Owens

Mike Wright is getting another start as Miguel Gonzalez is still on the DL, though even if Gonzalez were healthy I'm not sure starting Wright wouldn't still be a good idea. He's certainly had his struggles and is most likely headed for the bullpen next year, but now's the time to give him some work.

I had no idea who Henry Owens was before looking up the starters for this game. Turns out Owens just made his debut in August and is a 6'6" lefty. I always look for young pitchers to have platoon issues, and sure enough Owens has problems with left-handed batters (1.014 OPS vs. .704 against RHB).

Other Notes:

- If the Orioles are swept in this series they'll fall into last place in the division after winning the division last year. In 2013 the Red Sox won the division before falling to last place the next year. It would be strange to see that happen in the same division consecutively like that.

- These teams have pretty similar records, but they've gotten there in different ways. The Red Sox have actually had a better offense overall, but their pitching and defense have been significantly worse than the O's.

- It's easy to knock the Red Sox for kind of whiffing with free agents like Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, and for continuing to have to put David Ortiz out there. But with young players like Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Brock Holt, and Jackie Bradley Jr. I'm not looking forward to dealing with them in the future.

Prediction:

I'm taking the Orioles to win two out of three. It makes me nervous to do so, but they've been playing a lot better lately, generally have done well against the Red Sox the last couple years, and are at home. That's a recipe for success.