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Red Sox Will Probably Manage To Catch Bird Flu Somehow Against Orioles

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So, a couple of broken feet, a fractured thumb, some back and arm strains. I figure Bird Flu has to be next.

Good thing they're not playing the Iron Pigs?

So what's new with the Orioles since we last played them at the start of June? Well, not much up until this last week. Lucky Red Sox, they've caught the Orioles at their hottest. 5-2 over their last seven games, the Orioles might be expected to put up a challenge this time (which could be a good thing, given how the Sox have played against them when you would expect them to be pushovers). How have they managed this?

1) Miguel Tejada, Corey Patterson and Luke Scott

Corey Patterson is 12-for-25 with a pair of doubles and walks over the period. Luke Scott is 6-for-20 with four doubles, four walks, and a longball. Unfortunately for the Orioles, on that one longball, he managed to injure himself rounding first. Miguel Tejada is 12-for-32 with a couple of bombs. Their contributions have led the O's offense which has scored a very respectable 40 runs in their last seven games.

2) The Bullpen

Aside from an abortive effort from Frank Mata on Thursday, the Orioles bullpen has allowed only two runs over the last 26 innings pitched. The nigh-untouchable Jason Berken has combined with Alfredo Simon, David Hernandez, Will Ohman, and Mark Hendrickson to put up a good number of scoreless innings.

3) Clutch and Clutch Hitting

Three of the Orioles five wins are by one run, and they are hitting over .400 with runners in scoring position. Red Sox fans will know how much of a difference that sort of hitting can make given the beginning of the season.

The Red Sox have drawn the two best starters on the Orioles' roster in Jeremy Guthrie and Brian Matusz, and one of the worst in Brad Bergesen. Guthrie is coming off a weak June marked by a higher than usual walk rate to go with his usual middling strikeout numbers. He had one of his weakest starts of the year on June 22 against Florida, allowing six earned in six innings. Matusz had a remarkably similar outing against Florida, though his came surrounded by a much better month which saw generally improved peripherals if a still-inflated flyball rate. Brad Bergesen really should be a free win if he gets the start tonight, and if Wakefield doesn't match him run-for-run. He only threw 9.2 innings in June, allowing 12 earned runs mainly in short stints. He has yet to have a month where he struck out more batters than he walked.

With Lester and the (perhaps deceivingly) new-and-improved John Lackey taking games two and three against the better pitchers, the Sox would do well to pound Bergen and give themselves a good shot at a series win or even a sweep, which would be huge given their injury problems. A win tonight brings us within .5 games of the Yankees for first place in the East.

Go Sox!