SB Nation Blog
The opponent, in a sentence
At this point, we’re fairly familiar with this Orioles team that relies on big bats in the middle of their lineup to hide some weaknesses on the pitching staff.
Orioles 5, Red Sox 4
Down. Yes, Baltimore is coming off a series in which they took out of three against the division-leading Yankees. That is good. Before that, though, they had lost seven in a row and overall they’ve lost eight of their last ten. What’s strange is that their offense has been the bigger culprit to this downturn than their pitching, which is generally not how one thinks of this Orioles team. Lately, they’ve been losing some close games as the talented offense squanders good pitching performances. Sound familiar?
6/1: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Wade Miley, 7:05 PM ET
Rodriguez is coming off a simultaneously discouraging and encouraging start last time out against Seattle. On the one hand, he threw a season-high number of pitches in only six innings while also walking three batters for the first time since April 23 and striking out a season-low four batters. On the other hand, he was able to work around the lack of control and stuff for the night and not allow a single run. Rodriguez has taken a big step forward this season, and arguably the biggest improvement has come in the form of not allowing the wheels to fall off during bad outings.
It’s been a weird season for Miley, an old friend of ours who somehow hasn’t pitched against the Red Sox this season despite these teams playing each other 400 times already in 2017. He has a career-best 3.02 ERA with a better strikeout rate than he’s ever carried over a full season. He’s also struggling more with control than he ever has. The good news for the Red Sox is that the lefty has been struggling more lately after his hot start to the year. His 3.97 since May 1 isn’t horrible, but he has 13 strikeouts and 12 walks in 22 2⁄3 innings while allowing an .868 OPS. Miley will feature a low-90s sinker, mid-80s changeup and slider and will mix in a high-70s curveball.
6/2: Rick Porcello vs. Alec Asher, 7:05 PM ET
With the way Drew Pomeranz is throwing lately, there’s an argument to be made that Porcello is the worst starter in the Red Sox rotation right now. That sounds ridiculous given the fact that he just won the Cy Young award, but it says more about the quality of pitchers in the rotation at this moment than his own talent. That being said, Porcello is really struggling in terms of limiting hits from his opponent. The defense behind him is certainly partially responsible, as is good ol’ fashioned bad luck, but the righty also needs to do a better job of working on the edges of the strike zone.
Baltimore sends Asher to the mound on Friday, which should be good news for the Red Sox. The righty is nothing more than a Quad-A spot starter who has made just three starts for the Orioles this season. Splitting time between the rotation and bullpen, he’s struggled to miss bats and given up a ton of fly balls and home runs. In his last start on May 28, he allowed six runs to the Astros in just two innings of work. Asher leans mostly on a low-90s sinker and a high-80s cutter.
6/3: David Price vs. Dylan Bundy, 7:15 PM ET
Price had an encouraging outing in his first start back from the disabled list and is looking to build off that with a big test in Baltimore against the Orioles lineup. The southpaw was limited to 90 pitches last time out (he threw 88) and one figures he should be allowed to go at least 100 on Saturday. Aside from a three-run home run he allowed to Melky Cabrera, Price’s command looked solid to go along with his stuff that was right where you want it to be.
In terms of ERA, this has been a breakout season for Bundy, who was once the number one pitching prospect in all of baseball. He’s pitched to a 2.89 ERA over his first 11 starts and has allowed more than three runs in just one outing this season. However, he’s striking out only six batters per nine innings with average control and home run prevention. Judging by his peripherals, regression should be coming for the young righty, although the Red Sox managed just three runs in both chances against him this season. Bundy will throw a low-to-mid-90s fastball to go with a changeup, slider and curveball.
6/4: Chris Sale vs. Chris Tillman, 1:35 PM ET
Sunday is Sale day, the best day of the week. Of course, the ace of the staff is coming off a really rough outing his last time out in Chicago. Luckily, the offense was able to pick him up, and it doesn’t appear likely he’ll have two of those starts in a row. Look for Sale to come back with a vengeance in this one.
Tillman spent most of the early part of the season on the disabled list but has returned to make five starts since that time. They have not gone well, as he’s struggled with control with his typical lack of strikeouts en route to a 5.87 ERA. He is slightly below-average in every aspect and that results in a very unexciting pitcher. Tillman throws a low-90s fastball, a mid-80s cutter to go with a changeup and a curveball.
The only old friend on the Orioles roster is Miley, who was discussed above.
We’ve discussed the Orioles a few times already this year, so in this section I’ll be focusing on how the hitters performed in May, which is essentially the time between these two teams’ last meeting.
Manny Machado remains the focal point of this offense and continues to hit right in the middle of the lineup, but he’s been struggling mightily of late. He hit just .191/.238/.391 in the month of May and while the power still looks good his plate discipline has gone completely awry of late. Despite this, Red Sox pitchers obviously still have to be extremely careful with the third baseman as he is still one of the premier players in the league.
On the other end of the spectrum, Mark Trumbo has been fantastic in May to the tune of a .324/.385/.514 line. Always known as a boom-or-bust player with poor plate discipline, he put up strong walk and strikeout rates last month while still hitting for good power, even if it wasn’t his typical levels.
Like Machado, Adam Jones had a rough month of May hitting .228/.250/.396. The outfielder has never been known for his plate discipline — which remained poor in this month — but where’s he’s generally been able to produce strong results on balls in play he hit into a lot of outs this past month.
Chris Davis, like always, was a three-true-outcome player in May. In other words, he struck out a ton (40 percent of the time), walked a good amount (13 percent) while hitting a team-leading eight home runs in May.
Trey Mancini put together a huge month of May in which he was 37 percent better than the league-average hitter, though that came with average peripherals and an inflated batting average on balls in play. Regression is coming, but he’s killed the Red Sox this year so don’t assume it will come in this series.
Jonathan Schoop hit the ball hard while producing substandard plate discipline to result in an average-ish month. That’s basically what we can always expect from Schoop.
Seth Smith and Joey Rickard combine for a platoon in the leadoff spot and are decent on-base players who rely on the solid contact they’ve been able to make on a consistent basis this year.
With Zach Britton back on the shelf (more on that in a minute), Brad Brach remains the Orioles closer. Brach hasn’t been quite as good as he’s been in the past, getting slightly worse in terms of strikeouts, walks and home runs. However, he’s still a very talented pitcher and not someone the Red Sox will have an easy time hitting at the end of games.
Darren O’Day is the primary set-up man for Baltimore, and while he struggled mightily with control in the first month of the season he’s back to his normal self now. This is a solid one-two punch at the back of their bullpen even without their best arm.
Mychal Givens is the other set-up man in the Orioles ‘pen. The righty has big stuff but it hasn’t translated to strikeouts this season and his command has taken a huge step back since the start of May.
Donnie Hart and Richard Bleier are the southpaws in Baltimore’s bullpen. The former has struggled mightily to miss bats in May after striking out a third of his opponents in April. He is still the primary lefty. Bleier is a journeyman who hasn’t proven to have impressive stuff in his short major-league career.
Britton is the biggest injury for Baltimore right now, as the closer missed a chunk of time early in the year with a forearm strain before being placed back on. The Orioles are being much more cautious this time around, and there is still no timetable for the star closer’s return.
Welington Castillo, the Orioles primary catcher, was placed on the disabled list after getting hit in the.......groin area with a baseball. He’ll miss this series, but he shouldn’t miss more than the minimum ten days with the injury.
Backup infielder Ryan Flaherty has dealt with shoulder problems all year and was finally placed on the disabled list last weekend. It’s not a huge loss for the Orioles, but it’s still unclear how much time Flaherty is set to miss.
Anthony Santander, an outfielder, was the Orioles selection in the Rule 5 draft and is expected to be out until at least the second half.
It’s shaping up to be an extremely nice weekend down in Baltimore, with temperatures expected to be in the 80s every day and clear skies above. The only question mark for this series comes on Sunday, when thunderstorms may possibly be in the area. It’s too early and the forecasts are too vague at this point to be overly worried, though.
Obviously, I can’t do this preview without mentioning the bad blood between these two teams. I don’t need to go back through the history, but I suspect that is behind them now. A month has gone by since the last flare up and it sounds like both sides want to move on. With that being said, if either side does anything that seems even remotely disrespectful, expect tensions to boil back over. Hopefully that’s avoided, because I’d like to just watch baseball.