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Orioles-Red Sox series preview: Yet another crucial AL East series awaits

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The Orioles string of AL East games rolls on. They face the Red Sox for the third time this year, with Boston looking to meet expectations at last.

Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

The Orioles month of the AL East is going to carry on for at least another series. A rematch with the Red Sox starts tonight, with four games in Boston. The opening game has attracted the attention of ESPN, although that’s mostly because they are thirsting for drama after the Boston media pushed for, and got, some retribution in the last series.

Any devotees of the Pythagorean Win Expectation for baseball teams may view the Orioles and Red Sox as teams of similar quality after a month of the season. They are mostly identical in run differential - the Orioles at +1, the Red Sox at 0. However, the Orioles are ahead by 2.5 games in the standings since the O’s have thus far mostly followed a “win close or lose big” pattern.

What does it mean for now? Not a whole heck of a lot. Plenty can change as the season moves on - including in this series. If things don’t go well for the Orioles and they end up getting swept, they will drop below Boston in the standings. Whether or not that happens will probably depend on if the Orioles rotation keeps pitching like it did in the Yankees series.

Game 1: Monday, 7:10

Dylan Bundy (3-1, 1.65 ERA) vs. Rick Porcello (1-3, 4.75 ERA)

This is the third O’s series against the Sox so far this year and Bundy has pitched in both of the previous two. In those games, he’s combined to pitch 13.1 innings while surrendering just three runs, and if you remember his April 11 start in Boston, his teammates deserve more blame for the three runs than he does.

So, will the Sox hitters have adjusted to Bundy this third time around? Will he be able to adjust to their adjustments, if so? Bundy has been masterful so far, better than any O’s fan could have realistically hoped up until this point. If he can turn in a third straight quality start against the Sox, that will really cement the idea that his early performance might be representative of his true talent.

Like most, he must beware Mookie Betts, who’s homered twice in 15 appearances against Bundy.

Porcello, of course, is the defending AL Cy Young winner by virtue of having a good season on a team that had a great offense. His 2017 campaign isn’t off to a great start by either record or ERA, but the fact is he’s had a quality start in four of his five games. He has dodged the Orioles so far, perhaps a good thing for him.

Mark Trumbo might be glad to get a crack at Porcello, though, as he’s hit three home runs in 26 career appearances.

Game 2: Tuesday, 7:10

Alec Asher (?) (1-0, 2.16 ERA) vs. Chris Sale (1-2, 1.19 ERA)

There’s little question that Sale has been the AL’s best pitcher in April and yet he only has a 1-2 record. Remember this: Pitcher win-loss records are not of great value. The Orioles dodged Sale before. Their luck runs out now, unless perhaps they show up to Fenway Park with throwback uniforms.

There’s every reason to believe Sale will carve through the Orioles lineup like a Thanksgiving turkey. He’s struck out 37.4% of the batters faced so far this season and has given up just a single home run in 37.2 innings pitched.

Against this juggernaut, unless the Orioles pull a switcheroo, seems to be Alec Asher, the only one of the Norfolk reinforcements who has yet to disappoint. Asher’s April 15 start against the Blue Jays was good, even if the Orioles lost the game. The Red Sox will be a tougher task. Perhaps Asher being an unknown quantity will work in his favor.

Game 3: Wednesday, 7:10

Kevin Gausman (1-2, 7.50 ERA) vs. Drew Pomeranz (2-1, 4.15 ERA)

Gausman has now allowed five or more runs in three consecutive starts. It ain’t pretty. That included a game against the Red Sox on April 23 where he took the Tommy Hunter (five runs, all earned) in 5.1 innings. Will he ever turn it around? At this point, fans would settle for mediocre. He hasn’t even been able to do that.

Guess who has owned Gausman? Yes, it’s Betts: A .435 batting average and three home runs in 25 plate appearances when facing the O’s struggling pitcher. Hanley Ramirez has a pair of dingers in 16 appearances.

Pomeranz has already faced the Orioles twice this season, combining to hold them to three runs in 11.1 innings pitched. As they do against most lefties, the Orioles as a team have struggled in limited action against Pomeranz, though each of Manny Machado and Welington Castillo have a homer off the Boston lefty.

Game 4: Thursday, 7:10

Ubaldo Jimenez (1-1, 7.43 ERA) vs. Steven Wright (1-3, 8.25 ERA)

In terms of run output, only three AL teams are behind Boston. They’re probably circling this date on the calendar and salivating. They’ll get to go up against Jimenez, against whom they scored five runs in just 4.1 innings on April 12. Jimenez hasn’t given much reason to be confident he’ll be any better since that game.

One saving grace for the Orioles, such as it is, may be that Wright has actually been worse than Jimenez, at least by ERA, and he has specifically been bad in two outings against the Orioles. This could shape up to be a 14-11 slugfest like the Orioles were a part of on Friday in the Bronx. Or one or both pitchers might always surprise us.

**

The Red Sox bullpen, other than Fernando Abad, has been very good. Their rotation has yet to be as good as expected, with David Price injured and Porcello struggling to repeat last year’s results. And then there’s the offense, which, despite the expected good presence of Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi and the unexpected good presence of Mitch Moreland, has not delivered on the whole.

What’s it all going to add up to for this series? In the end, it probably depends on the Orioles rotation. Scary.

Poll

How many games will the Orioles win in this series?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    The Orioles will be swept by the Red Sox
    (3 votes)
  • 16%
    1
    (50 votes)
  • 60%
    2
    (186 votes)
  • 14%
    3
    (46 votes)
  • 7%
    The Orioles will sweep the Red Sox
    (22 votes)
307 votes total Vote Now