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Orioles-Red Sox series preview: Five games against a suddenly-hot team await

Since May 10, the Red Sox are 11-4. So much for hoping for their demise.

Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles
Baseball.
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

In a different era of 21st century Orioles history, we all got hyped up for another switch-hitting catcher mega-prospect, Matt Wieters. A Camden Chat commenter whose name I don’t recall said something that stuck with me: “He shall lead us to the Promised Land, a.k.a. slightly ahead of the Blue Jays.” It was always fitting for that earlier dark age of the Orioles, that the best thing a fan could imagine was not being in last place. Only in the fourth season of Wieters’s career did the Orioles emerge from the basement.

Here we are 13 years later in the early days of Adley Rutschman’s career. Perhaps he too can lead us to the Promised Land, which in this case would be slightly ahead of the Red Sox, currently occupying fourth place in the American League East. We can only hope it is earlier than his fourth big league season that the Orioles climb higher than last.

Both of these teams are a double-digit number of games out of first. Though the Orioles were ahead of Boston for a little while, the Red Sox recently won seven of eight to get some separation. They’re now 3.5 games ahead of the Orioles, to the annoyance of everyone who hoped the early season struggles were a sign that the Sox would stink this season. Like a horror movie villain, they just don’t stay down.

What’s the deal with this Red Sox squad? Maybe it’s some bad luck that is starting to reverse itself. Maybe they’re just playing better. As of now, Boston has the best batting average (.255) in the American League, and third-best OPS (.720). The Orioles are down in 12th with a .225 average, and 13th with a .639 OPS. Those are big gaps.

Three very hot hitters have helped to fuel the Red Sox ongoing rise. J.D. Martinez (.380/.430/.599) and Rafael Devers (.335/.366/.600) are performing in a way where you’d be impressed no matter what year it is. With 2022 and the apparently deadened baseballs, that stands out even more. The .837 OPS of Xander Bogaerts isn’t much less impressive. Recently, April struggler Trevor Story is getting his act together too, now sitting at a .776 OPS for the season.

These guys also have an annoyingly good starting rotation. Out of their five pitchers who’ve made the most starts, the worst ERA of the group is the 4.25 belonging to Nick Pivetta. That’s a below-average number in 2022, but not by much. Unlike the Orioles, the Red Sox have a pitcher who’s really been excelling: Michael Wacha now has a 2.86 ERA in seven starts. The good news for the Orioles is Wacha pitched on Thursday and likely won’t factor in this five-game set over the next four days.

Game 1: Friday, May 27, 7:10 ET

Starting pitchers: Kyle Bradish (5 GS, 5.74 ERA / 5.05 FIP) vs. Garrett Whitlock (10 G/6 GS, 3.58 ERA / 3.29 FIP)

DraftKings odds: Orioles to win is a +160 bet, or Orioles +1.5 runs at -125

Note: This game will be televised exclusively on Apple TV+ and will not air on MASN or NESN.

In the most recent Rule 5 draft that took place, Garrett Whitlock was the guy I hoped the Orioles would take. Unfortunately, the Red Sox fluked into stinking just a little bit worse than the Orioles in the shortened 2020 season and they picked one spot ahead of the Orioles. They stole Whitlock from the Yankees. He was an elite reliever last season and now they’re also trying the Tyler Wells “convert him to a starting pitcher” path.

In Whitlock’s six starts to date, he’s yet to go past five innings, and has a 4.70 ERA. It would be good if the Orioles can jump on him early and raid the Boston bullpen in the first of the five games in four days. Red Sox relievers have been pretty good though. While the team has four pitchers who’ve pitched in at least eight games and have an ERA over 6, three of those guys have been banished to the minors. Replacing your bad players with better ones: What a concept.

Bradish made his MLB debut against this Boston team on April 29, allowing two earned runs over six innings. The Orioles still lost the game because they only scored one run. So, you know. Bradish needs to equal that effort and the offense needs to do better. Stranger things have happened.

Game 2: Saturday, May 28, 12:10 ET

Starting pitchers: TBA vs. Nathan Eovaldi (9 GS, 4.10 ERA / 5.52 FIP)

We know that Jordan Lyles is starting one of the Saturday games, but not which one. It’s apparently his choice, as the veteran. I’m guessing the nightcap, which will leave this afternoon game as a mystery. Manager Brandon Hyde said the pitcher will “probably” be coming from Norfolk to serve as the doubleheader’s extra roster player. Tides 40-man pitchers Mike Baumann and Zac Lowther each pitched on Thursday; D.L. Hall is clearly not getting called up here.

Maybe it will end up being Denyi Reyes, who’s been pitching as a starter in the minors this year. His one big league outing had two scoreless innings of relief. Facing the currently-hot Boston lineup will be a bigger test. I understand if you are still dreaming that this might be Grayson Rodriguez. Beau Sulser, brother of Cole, is still on the Orioles roster though he’s yet to pitch for the team. He figures to be lined up for some bulk relief some time in this doubleheader.

Eovaldi has allowed 15 home runs in 48.1 innings this year, which is really kind of impressive given the general conditions of offense across the league. The Orioles, who still have only 35 home runs as a team (12th in the AL) have a number of players who could really stand to collect here, including Rutschman, still in search of his first big league dinger.

Game 3: Saturday, May 28, 6:10 ET

Starting pitchers: Jordan Lyles? (9 GS, 4.10 ERA / 4.18 FIP) vs. TBA

When the Orioles signed Lyles, I wasn’t impressed. He had the worst ERA of any qualifying starting pitcher in the AL last year, after all, and the main positive of his signing was supposed to be that he’d eat innings. I am wired to expect this to not work out. Here we are nine starts into his career and Lyles is pitching acceptably. His 4.10 ERA in 2022 is actually a touch below league-average, but that’s still OK. And he’s averaging close to six innings per start, with two starts of at least seven innings in May. I can live with this.

Eyeing the Red Sox Triple-A stats as well as their 40-man roster, my wild guess is the starter for this doubleheader will be right-handed pitcher Connor Seabold. He’s made one big league start before, a two runs in three innings effort for an MLB debut last year, and is currently sporting a 2.45 ERA through seven starts this Triple-A season.

Game 4: Sunday, May 29, 1:35 ET

Starting pitchers: Bruce Zimmermann (9 GS, 3.78 ERA / 4.44 FIP) vs. Nick Pivetta (9 GS, 4.25 ERA / 3.88 FIP)

Zimmermann’s last two starts, both of which ended up being against the Yankees, have increased his ERA by more than a full run. He hasn’t faced the Red Sox yet this season. We can hope his recent struggles were Yankee-related rather than general struggles, although as noted, there are a number of dangerous hitters in this Boston lineup. Baltimore’s own Bruce has been a nice story so far, but nine starts isn’t even a third of a full season’s workload. The O’s could use him continuing to be a nice story.

Pivetta has been the worst Red Sox starting pitcher so far, and as you can see from his ERA/FIP numbers he hasn’t even been that bad. I’m kind of envious of this. Last time the Orioles saw him, he gave up three runs in 4.1 innings. In four starts since then, he’s gotten his act together, allowing a total of five runs across 28 innings, including a complete game two-hitter against the Astros.

Game 5: Monday, May 30, 7:10 ET

Starting pitchers: Tyler Wells (9 GS, 4.30 ERA / 4.09 FIP) vs. Rich “The Blister” Hill (8 GS, 3.86 ERA / 4.09 FIP)

Wells is losing the ERA race to Whitlock among the former Rule 5 picks now serving as starting pitchers, but if you were paying attention only to Whitlock’s ERA as a starter, then you know that Wells is actually winning that more specific race. Either one could get bombed this series to flip that around. Unfortunately, with how the Red Sox have been playing lately, that’s probably more likely to be Wells.

My custom is to always refer to the 42-year-old lefty Hill as “The Blister” because one time when I think he was with the Dodgers, he missed a few starts due to blister issues. Reporters asked him what he’d done to try to deal with the blister, and he said he’d even tried peeing on his own hands. Piss Hands would be a little crass to me, so The Blister it is.

Hill has seen the Orioles once this year, a four inning start in April where he held them to one hit while not allowing any runs. He has only gone past five innings in one of his eight starts this season.

**

Prior to the last Orioles series against the Yankees, 52% of voters chose the correct answer of the O’s winning one out of three games. How are you feeling heading into this lengthy five-game set?

Poll

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

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    4-5
    (22 votes)
  • 23%
    3
    (39 votes)
  • 43%
    2
    (71 votes)
  • 19%
    0-1
    (32 votes)
164 votes total Vote Now