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Orioles-Red Sox series preview: Birds host a Boston team that might just be waking up

Orioles welcome in the defending champion Red Sox for a three-game set.

Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Boston Red Sox may be 22.5 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles, but the scorn they’ve received would indicate a far closer gap than that.

While the O’s have had their own fair share of detractors, the Red Sox have faced a no-less-ardent wall of criticism based on how they’ve performed since winning the World Series in October. Boston comes into this series at 52-44, outside of the American League wild card spots, and fans and media alike have been on the team for everything from Chris Sale’s sudden struggles to the bullpen, to a strong lineup’s collective step back.

Lately, however, Boston has started to look more like the contender everyone was expecting. The Red Sox now lead the major leagues in hitting at .273, and a big reason for that has been the emergence of stars like Xander Bogaerts (.313, 21 homers, 73 RBI) and Rafael Devers (.326, 18 homers, 70 RBI).

It’s far from a two-man operation, however. Christian Vazquez has taken off behind the plate, and is currently hitting .297 with 15 homers. Michael Chavis has provided a spark in his rookie season with 16 homers. And proven stars like Mookie Betts (.281, 13 homers, 43 RBI) and J.D. Martinez (.289, 19 home runs, 49 RBI) have started to shake off slow starts to the season.

And, of course, nothing cures a team like a trip to face the Orioles, though the Red Sox, who are 7-3 against Baltimore, haven’t cashed in on those opportunities like they did last year, when they went 16-3 against the Orioles. They’ll have another chance this weekend, and an old friend will be coming back on Sunday.

Game 1 - Friday, 7:05 p.m.

Starting pitchers

  • John Means: 15 GS, 88.2 IP, 2.94 ERA, 4.24 FIP, 1.094 WHIP, 73 SO, 22 BB
  • David Price: 17 GS, 88.1 IP, 3.16 ERA, 3.00 FIP, 1.155 WHIP, 102 SO, 24 BB

The Orioles will look for Means to get the series started off right, while also hoping he fixes whatever went wrong in his last start. Means was shelled by Tampa Bay on July 13, allowing six runs - all earned - on eight hits in six innings in a 12-4 loss.

Means has had success against Boston this season. He has allowed four earned runs in 17 innings against the Sox, and in his last time facing them went five innings while allowing two runs and seven hits.

His counterpart, Price, has been Boston’s best starter this season. He was excellent in his only other time facing Baltimore, striking out seven and allowing no runs on three hits in seven innings in a 4-0 win on April 14.

Game 2 - Saturday, 7:05 p.m.

Starting pitchers

  • Tom Eshelman: 2 GS, 10.2 IP, 5.06 ERA, 4.90 FIP, 1.219 WHIP, 7 SO, 2 BB
  • Rick Porcello: 19 GS, 105.2 IP, 5.37 ERA, 4.58 FIP, 1.420 WHIP, 83 SO, 31 BB

The Orioles would certainly sign up for more of what they got from Eshelman in his last appearance on Sunday. In just his second start in the majors this season, Eshelman allowed four runs while striking out seven in 5.2 innings against the Rays, a line that was more impressive before he ran into trouble in the sixth.

His counterpart, Porcello, has had a tough season, though his record stands at a less gaudy 7-7. He’s struggled worse in his last four outings, pitching to a 10.50 ERA and opponents’ batting average of .357 (while still going 2-1 in that stretch).

Porcello has one appearance against the Orioles this season; he went four innings while allowing three runs on six hits and five walks in a 9-5 loss. The O’s had better be ready to put runs on the board, because the Sox tend to do it for him.

Game 3 - Sunday, 1:05 p.m.

Starting pitchers

  • Asher Wojciechowski: 3 GS, 15.2 IP, 5.74 ERA, 5.00 FIP, 1.340 WHIP, 21 SO, 5 BB
  • Andrew Cashner: 18 GS, 101.1 IP, 4.09 ERA, 4.52 FIP, 1.234 WHIP, 68 SO, 31 BB

For the first time since being traded, Cashner will go up against his former team. Cashner was a surprisingly steady starter while in Baltimore this season, but his Boston debut was less than stellar as he allowed six runs (five earned) on eight hits in five innings of work.

Before that, Cashner had been great. In his last five starts as an Oriole, Cashner went 3-1 while compiling a 1.41 ERA. Opponents hit only .168 against him, had a .202 on-base percentage, and sported an OPS of only .423.

Wojciechowski will make his fourth appearance of the season. The 30-year-old last pitched Tuesday, allowing three runs on six hits in 5.1 innings in an 8-1 loss to Washington. The stats are underwhelming, but Wojciechowski has shown an ability to overwhelm hitters, striking out more than one per inning in each start and fanning 21 altogether in 15.2 innings.

Poll

How many games will the Orioles win against the Red Sox this series?

This poll is closed

  • 30%
    0 (The Orioles get swept)
    (30 votes)
  • 56%
    1
    (56 votes)
  • 7%
    2
    (7 votes)
  • 7%
    3 (The Orioles sweep the Red Sox)
    (7 votes)
100 votes total Vote Now