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Friday night AL East Champs game thread, vs. Red Sox, 7:05 ET

There’s been a lot to celebrate this week, and tonight the 100-game winning Orioles will honor Jim Palmer and his 60 years with the team.

New York Mets v Baltimore Orioles
Happy Cakes Day to all who celebrate. The Orioles will honor Jim Palmer and his 60 years with the Orioles in a pregame ceremony tonight.
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

After last night’s magical events, what could this team possibly do for an encore? Well, it’ll be hard to top clinching the East, winning their 100th game, and announcing a 30-year extension on their Camden Yards lease, but there’s still plenty to do at Oriole Park on Friday night.

Prior to the game, the team will honor Hall of Famer Jim Palmer, one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history, with a pregame ceremony celebrating his 60 years with the team. Boog Powell himself will be on hand at Boog’s BBQ to sign autographs pregame. And if all that wasn’t enough, beloved Orioles announcer Ben McDonald will be Guest Splasher tonight, so look out for a 6’7”-foot Cajun man in goggles and floaties over in Left Field Section 86.

All that said, to quote Austin Hays from last night, these Birds aren’t done yet. There’s three games left to be played in 2023. While it’d be understandable if manager Brandon Hyde decided to give some of his starters a little rest, one more win against the Red Sox would ensure that the Orioles own the season series against every team in the AL East. That’s quite a feat.

To do that, the Birds will have to roll through Red Sox right hander Nick Pivetta. Random factoid: there are only three active MLB players from British Columbia: Boston’s Pivetta and James Paxton (on the 15-day IL) and St. Louis’s Tyler O’Neill. The more you know.

Pivetta has a decent 4.25 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 173 SO in 135.2 IP on the season, but those stats conceal a lot of ups-and-downs in the meantime. He began the season as a starter for Boston, but it didn’t work out great, as he posted a 6.30 ERA and walked 17 batters in eight starts. This is part of the reason Boston’s rotation ranked among the ten-worst in MLB this season. Pivetta was better after that, though: as a swingman from late May to August, he had a 3.07 ERA in 22 games. And in four starts in September, he’s allowed eight runs and giving his pitching-strapped team some length.

This will be Pivetta’s first time facing the Orioles this season. Mullins is 9-for-24 against Pivetta lifetime, and Ryan Mountcastle has two home runs against him in 21 at-bats.

Gunnar Henderson is getting a rare day off and Heston Kjerstad is in the starting lineup for just the fifth time. The rookie played a key role in last night’s win, driving in an insurance run with a double looped to left.

Meanwhile, it’ll be fascinating to see what John Means can bring tonight. It’s been a long road back to the mound for the lefty, but no complaints about the results so far: in three starts since making his season debut on Sept. 12, Means has a 2.60 ERA and has gone five or more innings each time. However, with a 5.68 FIP and just six K’s in 17.1 innings, it’ll be worth seeing if he’s really fooling batters or getting a little lucky. Having the O’s left hander fresh and effective for the postseason would be huge.

Orioles lineup

  1. Cedric Mullins - CF
  2. Ryan Mountcastle - 1B
  3. Ryan O’Hearn - DH
  4. Austin Hays - LF
  5. Heston Kjerstad - RF
  6. Jordan Westburg - 3B
  7. Adam Frazier - 2B
  8. James McCann - C
  9. Jorge Mateo - SS

Adley Rutschman and Ramón Urías were scratched from the initially posted lineup because they were under the weather.

Red Sox lineup

  1. Ceddanne Rafaela CF
  2. Rafael Devers 3B
  3. Justin Turner DH
  4. Adam Duvall RF
  5. Rob Refsnyder LF
  6. Trevor Story SS
  7. Pablo Reyes 2B
  8. Bobby Dalbec 1B
  9. Connor Wong C