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Orioles-Red Sox series preview: O’s welcome the division leaders to the Yard

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The Red Sox and Orioles have taken turns getting the best of each other in two series this season. Which way will the third series go?

MLB: APR 11 Red Sox at Orioles Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

First, the Orioles left the Red Sox stunned and staggering. Then it was Boston’s turn to leave Baltimore looking for answers.

Now, with both teams likely happy with where they’re at, they meet for a third time.

The Red Sox come to Camden Yards at 19-13, sitting in first place in the American League East and holding the best record in the major leagues. The Orioles are in last place, but at 15-16 are only a game below .500, and they’re only 3.5 games behind the Sox. Not bad considering the dim prospects coming into this season.

The confidence is also likely high for the Birds. The West Coast swing couldn’t have gone much better, as the Orioles took both series against the Athletics and Mariners — who have a combined record of 36-29 — and they’ve now won five of their last seven and seven of their last 11.

But they have to face the task again of winning at home, where they’re only 4-10, and they face an opponent that just isn’t an easy matchup right now. Boston’s run differential of plus-26 is sixth best in baseball, and the Sox are first in the majors with a team batting average of .263 and OPS of .771. Boston’s 3.85 team ERA ranks 11th in baseball.

Offensively, the Red Sox have gotten all the contributions pundits figured they would need to make a charge at a playoff spot or division title. Xander Bogaerts needed to have another excellent season, and with a .348 average and .977 OPS, he has. Rafael Devers needed to keep progressing into one of the game’s best offensive third basemen, and at .282 and .933, respectively, he has. J.D. Martinez needed to bounce back from a horrid year last year. With 10 home runs, a .349 average and a 1.152 OPS, he’s done that, and then some.

Boston’s gotten other key contributions from Alex Verdugo (.314) and Christian Arroyo (.275), and relievers like Garrett Whitlock (1.76 ERA), Hirokazu Sawamura (3.38) and closer Matt Barnes (2.12) have at times been unhittable. If the Sox have a weak spot, it’s the bottom of their lineup and the back of their rotation. But good luck finding a team where that isn’t the case.

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

Eduardo Rodriguez (4-0, 4.18) vs. Matt Harvey (3-1, 4.06)

Once an Orioles prospect, Rodriguez has become an enigma for the Red Sox. He’s frequently in and out of the rotation as he’s on and off injury reports, but when he’s been healthy, he’s been steady. Rodriguez’s key this season has been improved control; he has a 1.036 WHIP, thanks to only three walks surrendered in 28 innings on the mound.

He allowed three earned runs in five innings in his last appearance against Baltimore, a 7-3 Boston win.

Harvey hasn’t been what he was in his Dark Knight days, but he’s still managed to be a pleasant surprise for the Orioles. He’s been good in his last two starts, allowing one run on three hits in six innings against the Yankees, then holding the A’s to two runs on four hits in 5.2 innings. He’s been vulnerable against the Sox in two outings, however, going 0-1 with a 5.59 ERA in 9.2 innings.

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

Garrett Richards (1-2, 4.40) vs. TBD

The Orioles gave Richards fits when they first faced him, hammering him for six earned runs on seven hits in two innings in the teams’ third game of the season. Richards was better in his second time against Baltimore, allowing only two runs on three hits in five innings. Two strong starts (one run in seven innings against the Mets, one run in five innings against the Rangers) have lowered his ERA from a bloated 6.48 number.

This would have been Bruce Zimmermann’s turn in the rotation, but so much for that. Isaac Mattson was recalled to take his spot on the staff, but it’s unclear what the Orioles’ plan will be to start the game.

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

Nick Pivetta (4-0, 3.23) vs. Dean Kremer (0-2, 6.43)

Pivetta went 19-30 with a 5.50 ERA in three and a half seasons, mostly as a starter, with the Phillies, but since being acquired by Boston he’s found another gear and lifted his team. He has 33 strikeouts in 30.2 innings, but he has also walked 19 batters, tops in the American League.

Pivetta’s last outing was shaky, as he allowed three hits on six hits in five innings against Detroit.

Kremer has been looking for consistency, and after his last game against Seattle, he may have found it. Kremer allowed one run on two hits in six innings, two starts after allowing one run in 4.2 innings against Texas.

Game 4: Monday, 7:05 p.m. ET

Martin Perez (0-2, 4.40) vs. Jorge Lopez (1-3, 6.49)

Perez was on the fringe of the Red Sox rotation coming into this season, and he’s been so-so thus far. He’s pitched better his last three starts, going 0-1 but with a 3.00 ERA over 15 combined innings. He has a 1.465 WHIP this year, and Monday’s game will be his first appearance against the Orioles this season.

Lopez has been shaky this season, but he had one of his best starts of the season in his most recent outing when he held the Mariners to one run on three hits in 4.2 innings of work. His one appearance against Boston was his worst start of the year; he allowed seven runs on eight hits in only four innings, and the Red Sox eventually earned a 14-9 win.

Poll

How many games will the Orioles win in this series?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    4 (The Orioles will sweep!)
    (8 votes)
  • 13%
    3
    (21 votes)
  • 46%
    2
    (75 votes)
  • 31%
    1
    (50 votes)
  • 4%
    0 (The Orioles will get swept)
    (7 votes)
161 votes total Vote Now