Before the 2023 season started, many pundits and projection systems believed that the first-place Orioles and last-place Red Sox would perform similarly and that neither team would be particularly impressive. These two teams meet starting tonight for a four-game series, the final one of the 2023 regular season.
The ZiPS projections placed the Orioles and last-place Red Sox in fourth and fifth place in the AL East with 80 and 79 wins, respectively. PECOTA flipped them in the standings, projecting 74 wins for the Orioles and 80 for the last-place Red Sox. And ESPN’s MLB “experts” predicted 74 for the Orioles, 78 for the Red Sox.
Well, those projections were half right. Because the last-place Boston Red Sox are not a good baseball team this year. They’re not the worst; at 76 wins they are more mediocre than terrible. But they are still in last place. They are the last-place Boston Red Sox and the Orioles are one win away from 100 wins and clinching the division.
The last-place Red Sox have had an above-average offense this year, averaging 4.85 runs per game with a team OPS+ of 103. They have allowed just about the same at 4.86 runs per game. By fWAR, the starting rotation ranks 24th in the majors with 8.4. Their bullpen is better, at 14th (4.3 WAR). In contrast, the Orioles rank 17th and 2nd.
So far this year, the Orioles have gone 5-4 against the last-place Red Sox and they are the only AL East team against whom the O’s haven’t locked down a winning record. They can take care of that this weekend.
Game 1: Thursday, September 28th, 6:35 pm, MASN
LHP Chris Sale (19 GS, 4.42 ERA / 3.71 FIP) vs. RHP Dean Kremer (31 GS, 4.25 ERA / 4.63 FIP)
In three of Sale’s past four starts, he has pitched a total of 16 innings with one earned run allowed and 22 strikeouts. In the fourth, he faced the Orioles and was knocked out after four innings with seven runs allowed.
The 34-year-old lefty is not the dominant pitcher he once was, but he’s capable of shutting down a lineup on any given day. He still strikes out a ton of batters, 11.1 per nine innings and he holds batters to a .228/.295/.419 battling line.
As for Dean Kremer, this will be his final start before the postseason after a very disappointing September. He failed to get out of the fourth inning in his last start against the Guardians.
It was September 28, 2011, when Robert Andino got a hit that knocked the Red Sox out of the playoffs. So it would be pretty cool if the Orioles clinched the division on that same date against the same team.
Game 2: Friday, September 29th, 7:05 pm, MASN
RHP Nick Pivetta (37 G / 15 GS, 4.25 ERA / 4.13 FIP) vs. John Means (3 GS, 2.60 ERA / 5.68 FIP)
Pivetta started the season as a starter and is ending the season as a starter. His most recent start, which came against the White Sox, was his best of the season. He pitched seven shutout innings with seven strikeouts. Overall, has a high strikeout rate of 11.9 per nine but not great HR or walk numbers. He’s been much more effective as a relief pitcher. As a starter, batters are OPS’ing .788 against him. He has not pitched against the Orioles this year.
Means gets one more turn in the regular season to prove that he’s back to his previous form. He carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Guardians in his last start. If he can have a good start in this game as well I’ll feel a lot more confident about seeing him start in the postseason.
This game will have a pre-game ceremony honoring Jim Palmer’s 60 years as part of the Orioles. So be sure to be in your seats on time.
Game 3: Saturday, September 30th, 7:15 pm, FOX
RHP Kutter Crawford (30 G / 22 GS, 4.23 ERA / 3.97 FIP) vs. TBD
The one thing about being a fan of a contender that turns out to be not so great is how much more often your team is on national TV. Instead of the delightful Kevin Brown, Jim Palmer, and Ben McDonald, we will be stuck with John Smoltz or someone of his ilk.
Anyway, this game is already being advertised as a sellout, which is awesome. Get there early for your lightweight hoodie!
The Orioles have not yet faced Crawford this season. Both his walk rate and strikeout rate are fine, but not outstanding, and he throws his fastball in the low-mid 90s. He does a good job keeping batters off base with an OBP against is just .289. He doesn’t have any pronounced platoon splits.
The Orioles have not announced a starter for Saturday or Sunday, undoubtedly waiting to see what happens on the division-clinching front.
Game 4: Sunday, October 1st, 3:05 pm, MASN
RHP Tanner Houck (20 GS, 5.31 ERA / 4.54 FIP) vs. TBD
Houck has been a dedicated starting pitcher for the last-place Red Sox in 2023 after having success mostly in relief last year. He missed a large chunk of the season after taking a line drive off his face in mid-June and requiring surgery. He is thankfully back and healthy now, but his pitching results haven’t been great. In five September starts he has a 6.56 ERA.
If the Orioles go into this game with anything on the line it will be a huge disappointment. I’ll be at this game and am hoping for a party in the stands as we send our guys off to the postseason.
How many wins will the Orioles have against the last-place Red Sox in this series?
This poll is closed
0 (first time being swept this year)