The red-hot Sox are up against the red-hot pitcher who dealt them their last defeat, and hoping very much that this game will be different.
|BOSTON RED SOX||BALTIMORE ORIOLES|
|Mookie Betts, RF||Adam Jones, CF|
|Xander Bogaerts, SS||Chris Davis, 1B|
|David Ortiz, DH||Manny Machado, 3B|
|Hanley Ramirez, 1B||Mark Trumbo, RF|
|Travis Shaw, 3B||Jonathan Schoop, 2B|
|Chris Young, LF||Matt Wieters, C|
|Jackie Bradley Jr., CF||Trey Mancini, DH|
|Sandy Leon, C||J.J. Hardy, SS|
|Marco Hernandez, 2B||Nolan Reimold, LF|
|Eduardo Rodriguez, SP||Kevin Gausman, SP|
The last time the Red Sox faced Kevin Gausman, it did not go well for them. You could count the number of times the Sox made decent contact on one hand. Gausman had them constantly hitting from behind, and they didn’t really adjust to his aggression in time, or catch up to him when they did. One expects they might be looking to swing early a bit more often today, but ultimately regardless of when they swing, they have to make them count for more. The best lineup in baseball should be capable of making halfway decent contact against even the best pitcher in baseball, and if Gausman has been great of late, he’s still not Kershaw.
He doesn’t really have to be, though, if Eduardo Rodriguez can’t do better than in his last start. As with Clay Buchholz in his last start, Two of Rodriguez’ last four starts have been pretty bad, but the first of those was his returning from injury, and in-between we saw him nearly no-hit the Athletics. The Orioles are a much tougher opponent, but they’ve also been pretty bad against lefties in 2016. Right now the game against New York looks like a blip on an otherwise positive radar, but that could certainly change if Rodriguez can’t keep things quiet in Baltimore.
To make matters worse, the Sox will have to get the job done without Dustin Pedroia, who presumably had to be sedated somehow to keep him out of the lineup. That leaves Orioles killer Mookie Betts making a brief return to his old role as the leadoff hitter, one of baseball’s hottest hitters in Hanley moving into the cleanup role, and Marco Hernandez (quietly holding a .380 OBP in 50 plate appearances with the Sox) batting ninth and playing second.
If that all sounds slightly doom-and-gloomish, take heart: this is certainly the worst matchup of the series, and the Sox really only need to take one game of these next three to be satisfied with the outcome of their trip to Baltimore. This is one of those games where a loss can be easily brushed off and a win would leave them looking pretty invincible. The only real difference between this one and so many of the others the Sox have faced this year is that they even have the padding to absorb the hit in the standings
First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. ET with broadcasts on NESN, WEEI, and the MLB Network.