When the Orioles started off this season against the Red Sox, things turned out in a disappointing way. The pitching staff wasn’t getting great results and the outfield defense was a shambles, culminating in Ryan McKenna’s dropped pop-up that was immediately followed by a walkoff home run for a loss. They left Boston having lost two out of three, with some diminished excitement from fans (or at least me) about the potential of the team.
Things have gone a little bit better for the Orioles since that series. The six-game winning streak they’re bringing into their rematch with the Red Sox has improved their record to 14-7 on the season, still second best in the AL. The winning streak has been fueled largely but not entirely by the starting rotation stringing together a good full turn through the rotation and then some. It’s come at the right time with some of the bats cooling off.
In the intervening time, the Red Sox have proven themselves to be perhaps better than Orioles fans would like for them to be. Though Boston is bringing up the rear in the AL East, they’re above .500 at 12-11, keeping the whole division with a winning record. Everybody is beating the non-division teams. Boston’s brought a thus-far prolific offense to go along with a thus-far bad pitching staff. They’ve scored 132 runs, more than any AL team except for the Rays. After five games against the Nationals and Tigers, this could be a rude awakening.
One part of all of this is that perhaps losing two out of three to Boston to start the season is not actually so bad. Maybe these guys aren’t among the April cupcakes against whom the Orioles needed to fatten up and have thus far done so. Another part is that even if the AL East remains a brutal gauntlet into the era of less-unbalanced schedules, it will be important for the O’s to not fall behind the division opponents in those games.
Two Red Sox pitchers who’ve not been good at all to start the 2023 season are lined up for this series: Chris Sale and Corey Kluber. It is all the more critical to see some hitters start to turn their fortunes around against these dudes. There are four players with at least 30 at-bats in the last 15 days who are below a .625 OPS - Ryan Mountcastle, Gunnar Henderson, Ramón Urías, and Adam Frazier. That’s a big chunk of the regular lineup, plus reserves Terrin Vavra and Ryan McKenna aren’t hitting either.
Game 1: Monday, 6:35, MASN / MLB Network
Probable pitchers: Chris Sale (4 GS, 18 IP, 8.00 ERA, 5.64 FIP) vs. Dean Kremer (4 GS, 19 IP, 6.16 ERA, 6.57 FIP)
An important question for the 2023 Orioles will be: Which is the true talent 2023 version of Dean Kremer? If he is going to look more like the 2022 version of himself, he’s really going to need to fire off some good starts, because he dug into a big hole with a 9.49 ERA across his first three games. Most recently, Kremer blanked the Nationals over 6.2 innings. It cannot be overstated enough how bad the Nats offense is. It’s going to take a lot more than that one start to believe the corner is turned.
Kremer faced these Red Sox in the opening series of the year, allowing five runs in a three-inning outing. Pretty bad! That was a game in which his offense staked him to a 7-1 lead after the top of the third and he still stunk it up, eventually cascading into McKenna dropping that popup and Adam Duvall (now on the injured list) delivering the walkoff dinger. Dean needs to do better.
Sale also pitched in that April 1 game. He was even worse than Kremer, giving up seven runs in three innings. Sale, like Kremer, is coming off of a game in which he looked like a much better version of himself, striking out 11 Twins in six innings just six days ago. I don’t know what to make of that, but he’s allowed five homers in 18 innings this year, so hopefully the Orioles can break out the homer hose. Not that it’s going to be home run temperatures in Baltimore this week.
Game 2: Tuesday, 6:35, MASN
Probable pitchers: Corey Kluber (4 GS, 18 IP, 8.50 ERA, 7.57 FIP) vs. Kyle Bradish (2 GS, 7.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 2.06 FIP)
Another Red Sox pitcher in his 30s who has had quite poor results to begin this season. Kluber got the Opening Day nod from Boston and was laid out by the Orioles hitters, who tagged him for five runs in 3.1 innings. Kluber has only had one start that could be called decent this season, when he held the Pirates to a run in five innings. Last time around, the Twins socked him for seven runs in five innings. He’s 0-4 in decisions. It will be up to the O’s offense to help keep him that way.
Bradish does not have as many early starts to comment on due to being knocked out of his first start by an unfortunate hard shot up the middle, then spending time on the injured list. He shut out the Nationals for six innings, but again, what’s that worth? Building on that against this Red Sox team would certainly give more support that he can be a long-term answer in the rotation.
Game 3: Wednesday, 1:05, MASN
Probable pitchers: TBD vs. Tyler Wells (4 G, 23.1 IP, 2.70 ERA, 3.92 FIP)
Wells is the one guy going for the Orioles in this series who’s had a good game against a team that might be a good offense. His five innings of shutout emergency relief in the game where Bradish was knocked out early were huge! Since then Wells has given up four runs in six innings against the Yankees, three runs in 5.1 against the White Sox, and then pitched seven shutout against the Tigers. They’re bad too.
What it comes down to is this: The Orioles are 14-7, now the third-best start in team history. This feat has only been bested by the 1966 and 1968 Orioles, two years where the Orioles won a lot of games. Yet here in 2023, this has not proven very much other than that they could beat some bad teams. Titans are still awaiting them, and the possibility is there for some bad or mediocre team to become a nuisance as well. They must bank all the wins that they can.
How many games will the Orioles win in this series against the Red Sox?
This poll is closed
0 (The Orioles are swept)
3 (The Orioles sweep)