SB Nation Blog
The Opponent, in one sentence
The Orioles have gotten off to a fine start this season thanks to some strong early performances from their hitters and two starting pitchers in particular.
Red Sox 1, Orioles 1
Up. The Orioles haven’t lost a series yet in 2017, and are coming off two straight wins against the surprisingly hot Cincinnati Reds. What’s most impressive about their last series win is the fact that they’ve won it with pitching, scoring just two runs in each win. This team is in a scary-good place right now.
4/21: Drew Pomeranz vs. Dylan Bundy, 7:05 PM ET
Pomeranz made his first start of the season against Baltimore last week and was outstanding in that matchup. It gave everyone a fair amount of hope for the year ahead. He came back out against Tampa in his next start and was...weird. There was too much hard contact, but he also struck out ten batters. Hopefully, he can rebound with another strong performance against the Orioles
Bundy is pretty clearly the best starter on the Orioles right now. He has a 1.86 ERA through his first three starts with 17 strikeouts and just three walks in 19 1⁄3 innings. The good news is his one not-great start of the year came against the Red Sox, when he allowed three runs and struck out just three batters while walking two in 6 1⁄3 innings. He’s been leaning heavily on his slider this year, and if it’s working on Friday, watch out.
4/22: Steven Wright vs. Alec Asher, 7:05 PM ET
Wright is hoping for a better performance than his last outing against Baltimore. That was the night in which he allowed a whopping eight runs without getting out of the second. In his other two starts, Wright has been just fine. Nothing more, nothing less. While the expectations were a little higher coming into the year, we’ll take “fine” from the number five starter. Just no more implosions, please.
Asher started the year in the minors but came up for his first start of the year against Toronto last weekend. It was a pretty strong outing, as the righty allowed just one run on three hits and one walk with five strikeouts in 6 1⁄3 innings. He’s a sinker-oriented pitcher who will also mix in plenty of breaking balls. These types of arms always feel like ones you want to get to early, as when they get in a groove with their pitches they can become unhittable.
4/23: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Kevin Gausman, 1:35 PM ET
Rodriguez returns for his first start since exiting for paternity leave, although he did appear out of the bullpen in Toronto on Wednesday and looked good doing so. His first two starts of the year weren’t exactly great, as he’s struggled a bit with control thus far and hasn’t been able to record more than 16 outs to date. The Red Sox could really use a strong outing to start feeling good about the young lefty.
Gausman, meanwhile, has been one of the more disappointing starters in the league so far this season. He was expected to be Baltimore’s ace this year, and many had him pegged as a potential breakout in 2017. Although his 7.23 ERA is heavily skewed by his eight-run outing in less than three innings last time out, he hasn’t had the same strikeout-to-walk stuff he showed in flashes last year. The Red Sox hope that trend will continue for one more start.
The Orioles roster hasn’t really changed much from when the Red Sox saw them just last week, so there remains but one old friend on the roster. That is Wade Miley, who once again will not be pitching against his old team after making the start for Baltimore on Thursday. After striking out 11 over eight innings of work on Thursday, Miley has a 24/8 K/BB ratio in 19 innings on the season while pitching to a 1.89 ERA. What the hell?
The Orioles lineup is loaded, and it all starts with Manny Machado. Although he’s gotten off to a slow start this year, he’s still one of the scariest hitters in the league and has two homers to start the season. He’s also arguably the best defensive third baseman in baseball, to boot.
Chris Davis is the ultimate boom-or-bust player, already striking out nearly 40 percent of the time this year but also boasting a .265 Isolated Power. Expect to hold your breath whenever he’s at the plate this weekend.
Adam Jones, fresh off his heroic World Baseball Classic performance (in the field, at least), is showing off abnormally strong plate discipline so far this year. Typically a free-swinger, he’s walking more than ten percent of the time to start the year. Combine that with his usual power swing, and he’s been a huge part of their offense early on.
Mark Trumbo was something of a big free agent (re)acquisition for Baltimore this winter, and the early returns haven’t been great. He’s striking out as much as you’d expect (around a quarter of the time) but is walking even less than you’d expect. Combine that with a slow start in terms of power (just one home run to date), and you have his less-than-enviable line. Of course, he is the type of player who could easily go on a run.
I mentioned in the version of this article before the last Orioles series that Jonathan Schoop is hidden among the big names in this lineup. He’s been exactly what one would expect so far this year, as an aggressive hitter who has made plenty of solid contact to make up for his lack of walks.
Trey Mancini is finally getting some consistent major-league playing time, and he’s making the most of it. He’s been the best hitter on the team so far, although much of that was due to when he destroyed Wright last week.
The Orioles are without their best reliever and one of the best relievers in all of baseball, but more on that in a minute. For now, they are relying on Brad Brach at the very back of the bullpen. He’s a tremendously underrated arm who can rack up strikeouts with the best of them. Last year, he showed some improved control that will turn him into a near-elite arm if he can show it wasn’t a fluke.
He’s flanked by Darren O’Day, who has long been one of the more underrated relievers, but he took a bit of a step back last year and has had a really rough start to this season.
Mychal Givens has been one of the more intriguing bullpen arms in the league for a few years now, but he hasn’t been able to harness his command consistently enough to take that next step yet.
The top lefty for the Orioles is Donnie Hart. Pitching in his first full season in the majors, he’s been a dominant force early in 2017. He’ll be a tough at bat for the lefties in Boston’s lineup.
As I alluded to above, the Orioles are without Zach Britton. The closer was placed on the 10-day disabled list this past Sunday with forearm discomfort and is expected to undergo an MRI on Friday to get more specifics about the issue. It doesn’t seem too serious, though, and they expect him back shortly after he’s eligible to return. He’ll definitely miss this whole series, though.
Baltimore is also without Chris Tillman, who was a solid rotation presence last year albeit one with a limited ceiling. He’s been out for the whole season to date, and while he’s started a rehab assignment he’s likely still a couple weeks away from major-league action.
While there is some rumbling of snow around me for Friday (I’m almost certain it’s not real, thankfully), it is quite warm down in Baltimore. It will be in the high-70’s for the first game of this series, and while there may be some thunderstorms early in the day, things should clear well before the game starts.
Saturday won’t be so nice. The temperature is supposed to cool off pretty significantly, falling to the mid-60’s. More concerning, there is expected to be rain in the area, with the precipitation picking up around 8:00 PM. This may be a rainout.
The rain will carry over into Sunday, although it shouldn’t last all day. The 1:35 start may be delayed, but I’d expect them to get this one in.
Jackie Bradley should be back in this series, meaning the Benintendi/Bradley/Betts outfield is back.
Camden Yards is where Mookie Betts hit five homers in seven at bats last year. A repeat performance would be cool.