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Orioles-Red Sox series preview: Battle for first place

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The Red Sox are here to play for games against the Orioles, with first place in the balance

The Boston Red Sox are in town to start a four-game series against the Orioles and first place could be on the line. The Red Sox are currently one game ahead in the division, but both teams are equal in the loss column. They have met once before this season, in Boston for the third series of the year. The O's took two out of three.

The Red Sox lineup this season has been crazy good, and that's not an exaggeration. The are averaging 5.9 runs per game, which is not only best in the league, it's over a run better than the next closest team. Their team OPS is .842, which is just outlandish.

Leading the way is the retiring David Ortiz, who is currently sporting a slash line reminiscent of Barry Bonds at .339/.420/.720. He is currently day-to-day after fouling a ball off of his foot, so let's hope that day-to-day status equates to four more days off.

But Ortiz is far from the only one to fear in this lineup. Jackie Bradley, Mookie Betts, Travis Shaw, and Dustin Pedroia are all hitting the cover off the ball. There are very few easy outs to be found in this lineup.

Where the team struggles to this point is with its starting rotation, but when you're scoring six runs per game that covers a lot of flaws. And with Eduardo Rodriguez coming off the disabled list this series to replace Clay Buchholz, who has been sent to the bullpen, it might be less of a struggle very soon.

David Price, who the Orioles will miss this series, had a rocky start to the season but seems to have turned it around. And if Rodriguez pitches well, which he is expected to, that really leaves Joe Kelly as the only major hole in their rotation.

This team is really good. It's disgusting.

Game 1: Monday, May 30th, 1:35 PM

Tyler Wilson (2-3, 3.80 ERA) vs. Steven Wright (4-4, 2.52 ERA)

Knuckleballer Steven Wright is off to an excellent season. Over his first six starts of the season he gave up between zero and two earned runs each time, then after being lit up by Houston for his only stinker on May 13th he has settled back down to have back-to-back good games.

He's a knuckleball pitcher, so there isn't much to say about his pitching repertoire. He throws the knuckler, which averages just under 75 mph, about 75% of the time. His fastball, when he does throw it, is in the low 80s, and he also has a breaking pitch that runs about 67 mph.

Game 2: Tuesday, May 31st, 7:05 PM

Kevin Gausman (0-2, 3.24 ERA) vs. Eduardo Rodriguez (First Start)

Those of you who are still salty about Eduardo Rodriguez being traded for Andrew Miller in 2014 might have a tough time watching this. Even those of us who are over it will have a hard time not wondering what might have been if these two pitchers were in the same rotation rather than facing off against each other.

Rodriguez has yet to pitch this season, but in 21 starts last year he was quite good, pitching to a 3.82 ERA but putting together 15 starts in which he allowed two or fewer earned runs. He is coming off of a knee injury, which is the same kind of thing he struggled with in the minors with the Orioles.

Game 3: Wednesday, June 1st, 7:05 PM

Mike Wright (2-3, 5.05 ERA) vs. Joe Kelly (2-0, 6.30 ERA)

This feels like a game that should be a slugfest ending with a 10-8 score, which in reality probably means it'll be 3-2 or something. Although I find it almost impossible to imagine that this Red Sox lineup won't completely destroy Mike Wright.

Joe Kelly missed about a month of the season with a right shoulder impingement, then came off the DL to throw 6.2 no-hit innings against the Indians, but then was back to classic Joe Kelly in his next start as he gave up five runs in less than five innings to the Blue Jays.

Game 4: Thursday, June 2nd, 7:05 PM

Ubaldo Jimenez (2-6, 6.36 ERA) vs. Rick Porcello (7-2, 3.68 ERA)

After a dismal 2015 with the Red Sox, Rick Porcello is holding his own this year. He's had a couple clunkers, but has been mostly good for 6-7 innings with three-ish runs allowed. I can easily imagine things going either way for the Orioles against him, but since he's facing Ubaldo Jimenez he'll really just have to not really fall apart for the Red Sox to take this one.

As for Ubaldo, he's on the list of probable pitchers and will most likely make this start despite Buck Showalter having a little fun by refusing to say more than that Ubaldo is "projected to start." But honestly, who else do the Orioles have that could take his place that you'd have confidence the Red Sox wouldn't destroy? Vance Worley? T.J. McFarland?

Ubaldo is bad right now, really bad. But neither of those guys is going to fix the problem.

***

So what are your thoughts on the series? I have a bad feeling, but I often have bad feelings when things end up turning out OK. Having both Wright and Jimenez scheduled to pitch against the Red Sox lineup is terrifying, and so is Tyler Wilson to a lesser degree.

The Orioles play really well at home this year, so hopefully they'll be dialed in for what will surely be a very tough series.