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Red Sox vs. Orioles Series Preview

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A look ahead to the weekend’s series against Baltimore.

Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

SB Nation Blog

Camden Chat

The opponent in one sentence

The Orioles offense has come alive of late, particularly their star third baseman, but a poor pitching staff continues to hold them back and really limits their ceiling in a big way.

Record

62-65 (11.5 games behind Red Sox)

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 6, Orioles 7

Trend

Down. The Orioles aren’t falling apart or anything of late, but they just can’t seem to make the leap into the mess that is the American wildcard race. They’ve lost six of their last ten and have generally been playing .500 baseball of late. They are coming off a series win over the A’s, but prior to that they hadn’t won a series since their three-game set against the Royals that began on July 31.

Pitching Matchups

8/25: Rick Porcello vs. Jeremy Hellickson, 7:10 PM ET

Porcello is coming off three really solid starts in a row, and this is a nice test against a division rival who has seen him a bunch to see if this little run is what the Red Sox can expect the rest of the way. They don’t need him to be his 2016 self, just a better version of himself than he was early in the year. That’s exactly what he’s done of late with a 2.84 ERA over his last 19 innings (three starts) with 17 strikeouts and seven walks. He’s had some success against Baltimore this year, tossing 12 innings over two starts and allowing five runs on 12 strikeouts and just one walk.

Hellickson is not the most intimidating pitcher in baseball, though he’s been able to turn in some solid numbers in recent years. That hasn’t been the case this year as his flyball tendencies have helped lead to a 5.00 ERA. Most of that came with Philadelphia, but he’s made four starts since getting traded to Baltimore. The first two went very well, but he’s allowed 13 runs in his last two outings. The flyballs lead to an ability to lead hits, but it also leads to a ton of home runs. When you combine that with an inability to induce whiffs, it leads to rough results. The Red Sox faced the righty when he was still in Philadelphia in June and scored six runs in five innings. Hellickson throws both a four- and two-seam fastball — both in the low-90s — along with a changeup, a curveball and a cutter.

Kansas City Royals v Boston Red Sox Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

8/26: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Kevin Gausman, 4:05 PM ET

As has been said over and over again with Rodriguez, the key for the young left is consistency. We know what kind of talent he has, and we’ve seen him put it together enough to know there’s potential for a really good major-league pitcher. Unfortunately, he just loses his command at times and that leads to some rough starts. He’s been solid enough of late, though still with some inconsistencies. The Red Sox would really like to see a strong finish to the year heading into October. That could start against Baltimore. Rodriguez has pitched twice against the Orioles this year. In one starting, he struck out six and walked zero but allowed seven runs. In the other, he struck out seven and walked five but still allowed zero runs. That’s...a little strange.

Gausman remains one of the most baffling pitchers in all of baseball. Once one of the top prospects in the game, the Orioles righty hasn’t been able to make good on his potential to this point in his career. This season, he has pitched really poorly with a 5.25 ERA over his 27 starts. He gets a solid number of strikeouts, but his command is just disastrous and it has led to big walk numbers and a whole bunch of hard contact. He’s made two starts against the Red Sox this year, though an injury caused him to be removed from one after just a single inning. In the other, he allowed five runs in 5 13 innings. Gausman features a mid-90s fastball along with a slider and a splitter.

8/27: Doug Fister vs. Chris Tillman, 1:35 PM ET

I’m not really sure what to say about Fister at this point. He started out really solid for the Red Sox, then turned into the pitcher we expected. That is to say, one you don’t want in your rotation. Then, he rejoined the group and put together a couple of really solid outings before getting rocked by the Indians. At this point, it seemed like the ride was over. Instead, he went out and pitched a complete game one-hitter against the Indians in his last start. So, basically, who the hell knows what the expect from Fister at this point.

Tillman was something of a stabilizing force in Baltimore’s rotation a year ago, but that hasn’t been the case in 2017. The righty has been brutal this season, pitching to a 7.75 ERA over his 18 outings (16 of which have been starts). His strikeout rate has fallen below seven per nine innings this year while his command has taken a major step back. He’s walking everyone and allowing more than two homers per nine. The Red Sox scored five runs (three earned) in six innings against Tillman in June. He offers a low-to-mid-90s fastball to go with a changeup and a curveball.

Old Friends

Wade Miley is the only old friend on the Orioles roster. Miley, of course, didn’t spend a long time in Boston was part of the infamous “He’s The Ace” rotation. The lefty has had his moments for the Orioles this year but has largely been the same guy he’s always been. He was the man who brought Carson Smith to Boston, a pitcher that might be making his way to the major-league club soon enough.

Notable Hitters

Manny Machado got off to a rough start this year, at least by his standards. In the second half, though, he’s reminding the world that he’s one of the game’s best young players. He’s putting absolutely everything in play and very often doing so with authority. He is a scary bat towards the top of Baltimore’s lineup.

Oakland Athletics v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Machado might be one of the best players in baseball, but Jonathan Schoop is one of the most underrated. The second baseman has big power and provides a solid glove up the middle. He’s also cut down on his strikeouts and provides a solid batting average, though he doesn’t draw many walks.

Chris Davis has been struggling a bit in the second half and is always a good bet to strike out, but he’s also always capable of putting runs on the board with one swing.

Adam Jones is the same old hitter he’s always been, limiting both his walks and his strikeouts while providing pop in the middle of Baltimore’s lineup.

Mark Trumbo has had a dreadful second half thanks to merely solid power to go with a ton of strikeouts and a pinch of bad luck.

Tim Beckham was a bit of a strange trade deadline pickup, but he’s been amazing since coming to Baltimore largely due to a batting average on balls in play that is approaching .500.

Trey Mancini has had a quietly solid rookie year, and he’s been particularly impressive in his games against the Red Sox this year.

Welington Castillo has been crushing the ball in the second half and give the Orioles a threat towards the bottom of the lineup.

Bullpen Snapshot

Zach Britton hasn’t quite been himself this year, likely due to his injury issues. His strikeouts are way down and he just recent blew his first save since 2015. Despite all that, he is still getting the job done and can be found in the ninth inning of close games.

Brad Brach has taken over the ninth when Britton’s been on the shelf this year, and he’s probably been their best reliever this year. His walks have risen a bit this year, but he still gets plenty of strikeouts.

Darren O’Day and his funky delivery are still getting swings and misses but his command is starting to fall off as he gets older.

Richard Bleier is the only lefty in Baltimore’s bullpen besides Britton and he relies on weak contact rather than big, prototypical reliever stuff.

Injuries

J.J. Hardy is the only player on the shelf for Baltimore. The shortstop has been out since June with a wrist injury, but he is close to returning. Even when he does, the shortstop job now likely belongs to Beckham.

Weather Forecast

It is setting up to be a very nice weekend in Boston. In fact, according to Accuweather, Friday and Saturday are going to be “pleasant” while Sunday is expected to be “delightful.” That seems good.

Other Notes

This is series will be taking place during MLB’s Players Weekend. I am far too excited about seeing “Dirty Craig” on the back of a major-league uniform.