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Orioles-Red Sox series preview: O’s head north to face a rival in a rut

Baltimore gets a Boston team that has been slipping badly, losing 12 of its last 17 games and falling behind in the Wild Card chase.

MLB: JUL 21 Red Sox at Orioles Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

They’re done with the team they couldn’t beat this year. Now the Orioles will face the team they couldn’t beat last year.

Done getting their heads caved in by the Yankees for the rest of 2019 after their 17th loss in 19 matchups, the O’s will head to Fenway Park to face the Red Sox, who beat them 16 times in 19 tries last year en route to the World Series title.

That Red Sox team was a machine, but this Red Sox team...well...isn’t. Flying high on July 27 at 59-47 after a third straight win over their archrivals from The Bronx, Boston dropped the fourth game to New York, and has gone into dive mode ever since. The Sox lost more in a row after that defeat, and though they won their most recent series with Cleveland, head into the three-game set with Baltimore having fallen 7.5 games behind Tampa Bay for the second Wild Card spot.

Of course, the 64-59 Red Sox are still 24 games better than the Orioles, and this is a team that still has plenty of firepower. Rafael Devers (.327, 25 homers, 94 RBI, .954 OPS) and Xander Bogaerts (.308, 27, 92, .947) are having phenomenal seasons, and the team has gotten plenty of additional production from the usual suspects in J.D. Martinez (.308, 28, 72, .943), Mookie Betts (.281, 20, 63, .878) and Andrew Benintendi (.287, 12, 61, .828).

Hitting hasn’t hurt the Red Sox, who lead the majors in batting average and are fourth in OPS. The pitching, meanwhile, has been shaky — particularly in the bullpen. Boston is 21st in baseball in team ERA, and its relievers have blown 22 saves, which is third-worst in the majors and the worst in the American League.

The Red Sox are 8-5 against the Orioles this season, and 2-2 at Fenway Park. It’s Baltimore’s first trip to the game’s oldest park since a series from April 12-15.

Game 1 - Friday, 7:10 p.m.

Starting pitchers

  • Aaron Brooks (with BAL): 6 GS, 22 IP, 9.41 ERA, 7.12 FIP, 1.773 WHIP, 16 SO, 7 BB
  • Rick Porcello: 24 GS, 133.1 IP, 5.67 ERA, 4.92 FIP, 1.425 WHIP, 107 SO, 36 BB

Two struggling pitchers will get the ball to start the series. For Baltimore, Brooks will be looking for his first quality start since coming to the team in a trade in July. He’s pitched to an 11.88 ERA in his last four outings, though he has reason for confidence Friday; He limited the Red Sox to only two hits in six scoreless innings in his first start of the season while still at Oakland on April 1.

For Porcello, the 2019 season has been a miserable one, and has left fans forgetting his Cy Young season from 2016. He’s allowed the most earned runs in the American League, and he’s given up the third-most hits.

He has also, however, benefited all season from generous run support, which has allowed him to go 5-2 in his last seven starts despite pitching to a 7.09 ERA (while allowing a .304 average, .596 slugging percentage and .928 OPS) in that span. The Orioles should have their opportunities to score against him, but given Brooks’s struggles of late and Boston’s tendency to hit for Porcello, they may need to cash in all the chances they get.

Game 2 - Saturday, 7:10 p.m.

Starting pitchers

  • Asher Wojciechowski: 8 GS, 44.2 IP, 4.84 ERA, 5.44 FIP, 1.187 WHIP, 52 SO, 17 BB
  • Eduardo Rodriguez: 25 GS, 146.1 IP, 4.31 ERA, 4.43 FIP, 1.374 WHIP, 145 SO, 56 BB

The last time Wojciechowski pitched against the Red Sox, he delivered one of the best starts in recent years for the Orioles. On July 21 he pitched 7.1 innings while allowing one hit, two walks and no runs and striking out 10.

Wojciechowski delivered another excellent start against the Angels before hitting rockier roads in starts against the Blue Jays and Yankees, but steadied himself again by allowing three runs - all on a three-run home run - in a start against the Astros. Though 30 years old, Wojciechowski has been a find for the pitching-strapped Birds, and could provide further evidence whether his promising flashes this season are a fluke or a sign of things to come.

Rodriguez, like his mates in the Red Sox rotation, has been up-and-down this season, but has been perhaps Boston’s best overall starter. He also tends to be tough on his former team; he’s 5-0 over his last five starts against the Orioles, pitching to a 1.74 ERA and striking out 31 in 31 innings.

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

Starting pitchers

  • Gabriel Ynoa: 9 GS, 82 IP, 5.93 ERA, 5.89 FIP, 1.390 WHIP, 50 SO, 22 BB
  • TBA (possibly Nathan Eovaldi)

In the series finale, the Orioles will try to get the Ynoa-as-starter plan to work. Ynoa went the entire month of July without a start, pitching to a 3.86 ERA, then started his last two appearances on Aug. 5 and 12, both against the Yankees, and allowed 10 runs and five home runs in 10.2 innings.

As a starter this year, he’s 0-6 with a 7.17 ERA. He did pitch well in his only appearance against the Red Sox, tossing three innings of relief on May 7 while allowing no runs and one hit.

The Red Sox haven’t named a starter yet, but a possibility would be Nathan Eovaldi, who has pitched recently out of the bullpen. The World Series hero from last year is 1-0 with a 5.77 ERA, but has pitched to a 2.79 ERA while making seven appearances out of the bullpen in August.

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    0 (The Orioles get swept)
    (16 votes)
  • 58%
    1
    (52 votes)
  • 15%
    2
    (14 votes)
  • 7%
    3 (The Orioles sweep the Red Sox)
    (7 votes)
89 votes total Vote Now