SB Nation Blog
The Opponent in one sentence
The Orioles are coming off a historically bad year and are not expected to be much better in 2019, though they are ahead of Boston in the standings very early in the year.
Red Sox 0, Orioles 0
Down. The Orioles have a respectable record because of how they played to start the year when they won four of their first five games. Since then, though, it’s been pretty rough. They’ve won just one of their last eight games and in their last two series they were swept by the Yankees and then dropped three of four to the Athletics.
4/12: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. David Hess, 7:10 PM ET
This series starts with a big start from Rodriguez, who is going up against his former organization. The lefty has had a frustrating start to the year in ways we’ve seen throughout his career and he’s been called out publicly by his manager for the lack of efficiency. In his last time out we did see him attack and have success early before regressing midway through the start. We know Rodriguez has the stuff to be outstanding and this is the kind of matchup he may need to regain some confidence and go on a run. He did well against Baltimore last year, for whatever that may be worth, pitching to a 1.31 ERA over five outings (three starts) and 20 2⁄3 innings with 24 strikeouts and four walks.
Hess, a former fifth round pick, made his major-league debut for the Orioles last season and spent most of the season on their pitching staff. The results weren’t great, but then nobody was doing well on Baltimore’s pitching staff. This year he has taken the mound three times with two of them being starts, and he’s having some of the same issues but also seeing some improvement. On the plus side, his strikeout rate has climbed by almost two full strikeouts per nine innings, though that’s almost entirely because of one outing against the Blue Jays. Where he struggles is with command as he walks over three batters per nine innings and with a heavy flyball tendency he has already allowed three homers this year. Boston did see Hess twice in 2018, touching him up for ten runs in eight innings of work with six strikeouts and six walks. The righty will feature a low-to-mid 90s fastball along with a slider and the occasional changeup.
4/13: Rick Porcello vs. Andrew Cashner, 1:05 PM ET
Like the rest of the Red Sox rotation the early season has been an absolute drag from Porcello. The righty has been uncharacteristically wild, and if he’s putting runners on base for free that is pretty much a guarantee for trouble. We know there are going to be some stretches where Porcello gives up home runs, and he’s allowed three over his first two starts this year. When he’s at his best, though, most of those are solo shots and he can move past it. Right now, he’s walking three or four per game in short outings, leading to two- and three-run shots that serve as back-breakers. Look for him to hopefully be in the zone a lot more often in this game and specifically getting ahead early in counts. Porcello had a 2.25 ERA over two starts and 12 innings against Baltimore last season with 15 strikeouts and four walks.
Cashner joined the Orioles rotation last year in free agency in a deal that most saw going poorly. After outperforming his peripherals by over a run in 2017 his performance came back down to Earth in 2018 despite actually increasing his strikeout rate. Even then, he still is towards the bottom of the league in terms of missing bats and he also struggles with control a bit. That has been the case to an even greater extent in the early going for 2019 as he has eight walks and seven strikeouts in his first 15 1⁄3 innings. This is the type of game where you want to jump on him early and not let him get in a rhythm, because he can get into grooves where he allows a whole lot of weak contact. The Red Sox, somehow, did not see Cashner at all in 2018. The righty will feature a pair of low-to-mid-90s fastballs as well as a cutter, a changeup and a curveball.
4/14: David Price vs. John Means, 1:05 PM ET
The bar is extremely low, but Price has definitely been the top pitcher in the Red Sox rotation to start the year. The numbers certainly don’t look great with a 6.00 ERA over 12 innings, but his stuff has mostly been there and he’s actually managed to make it through six innings in both of his starts. In his first outing he was killed by the home run as he allowed three of them. In the second, it was a more standard slog as he struggled a bit more to miss bats and allowed eight baserunners in his six innings. He still needs to sharpen up his command by a bit to be sure, but Price is close and the most likely starter right now to break through with a upper-echelon performance. The southpaw pitched to a 2.25 ERA in three starts against Baltimore last season with 24 strikeouts and three walks in 20 innings of work.
If you haven’t heard of Means you can be forgiven as the former 11th round pick hasn’t had much exposure at the major-league level. He had one three-inning outing in the majors last year and so far this year he has made one start and three relief appearances. We’re dealing with a tiny 12-inning sample for his major-league career, but he does have 14 strikeouts in that time. However, he struck out fewer than eight batters per nine innings between Double-A and Triple-A last year. The southpaw was hurt by his defense in his last time out as he allowed five runs in three innings, though only one was earned. Look for the Red Sox to be aggressive and get him off his game early in the start. Means throws a low-90s fastball to go with a slider and a changeup.
4/15: TBD vs. TBD, 11:05 AM ET
Monday is the annual Patriots Day early game, but as of now neither team has announced who is starting that day. For the Red Sox, it would be Chris Sale’s scheduled outing and with an extra day off worked into the schedule it would be weird to push him back even further. There are some weather concerns for Monday, so that may be why they are waiting to announce him. ESPN has Hector Velázquez listed as the probable for Boston, for whatever that may be worth. Meanwhile, it seems like that Dan Straily will go for Baltimore in this game, though again nothing has been announced just yet.
Notable Position Players
Chris Davis has to be the starting point here, and not for good reasons. You’ve probably been hearing a lot about Davis lately as he has been one of the most discussed players in all of baseball for about a week now. The first baseman has had a horrid start to his season. He’s yet to record a hit and is now 0 for his last 53, the worst stretch in league history. At some point he has to luck into one, you would think.
Trey Mancini was a quiet Rookie of the Year candidate two years ago before disappointing a bit in 2018. He’s back at it with a red-hot start in 2019 as the righty already has six homers on the year and he’s striking out less than he ever has before while he’s at it.
Jonathan Villar started turning things around last season after being sent to Baltimore in a trade, and he’s continuing that pace right now. He’s always a threat on the bases, and to start 2019 he’s making the best contact he’s made in at least a few years.
Renato Nuñez doesn’t really excel in any one area but he also stays at a passable level in every area of hitting and that’s enough to hit towards the middle of Baltimore’s lineup right now.
Dwight Smith Jr. only has 151 major-league plate appearances under his belt so the jury is still out on exactly what kind of player he can be, but to reach his peak he needs to make a lot of contact.
Cedric Mullins is probably the most exciting young position player up with the Orioles right now as the outfielder makes contact, can steal some bases and has a little bit of pop to boot.
Rio Ruiz is long past his former top prospect status and he’s starting to run out of rope for a consistent major-league role at all.
Richie Martin was the number one overall pick in last winter’s Rule 5 Draft but he’s off to a brutal start with a strikeout rate over 40 percent.
Jesus Sucre and Pedro Severino are currently splitting time behind the plate and both have struggled mightily at the plate.
The Orioles don’t have a clear bullpen structure right now and are currently in the process of trying to figure out who will step up and claim a big role late in games. Mychal Givens is likely the most talented of the group but he has control issues. Miguel Castro fits a similar profile. Paul Fry gets the best results, but the peripherals haven’t really backed that up. Basically, Baltimore can and will send anyone out if they get a late lead in this series and we shouldn’t be surprised.
Alex Cobb is currently on the injured list with a minor back problem. He’ll miss this series but he should be back in Baltimore’s rotation shortly after they leave Boston.
Mark Trumbo underwent surgery towards the end of last season and was placed on the 60-day IL to start this season, meaning he’ll be out until at least the end of May.
Richard Bleier suffered a major injury last season around his left shoulder and is currently battling some pain there. They hope the lefty will only miss a few weeks.
Nate Karns was hoping to serve a big role in Baltimore’s bullpen this year but felt some soreness in his forearm earlier this week. The hope is that he’ll only be out ten days.
Austin Wynss has been out to start this season with an oblique strain but they are hoping he’ll be back in the catching mix sooner than later.
The first three games of this series should be fine, with Saturday looking particularly nice with temperatures potentially getting up to the 70s after some morning showers. Monday, though, could be a tough one. Right now they are calling for rain starting about an hour before first pitch and continuing through most of the afternoon. Keep an eye on forecast updates for this one if you’re planning on heading to the city for Marathon Monday.