SB Nation Blog
The opponent in one sentence
The Orioles, as we mentioned in this space just a week ago, have been projected by all to be among the league’s worst, but it was the Red Sox who looked that part when the two played last weekend.
We’re still too early for real trends, though they were obviously very much trending up after opening weekend in Fenway. They came back down to Earth a bit in their subsequent series against the Yankees, where they lost two of three. So that would suggest a bit of a trend down, but they’re still 4-2 and they did win on Wednesday.
4/8: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Matt Harvey, 3:05 PM ET
Thursday is the big one for the Red Sox in this series as they look to avenge their sweep last weekend. They get their best pitcher back on the mound on Thursday to face off against the organization where it all started for him. After dealing with some dead arm at the end of spring, Rodriguez is back and ready to go, taking the ball for this series opener. He is obviously not just coming back from dead arm, but also complications from COVID that caused him to sit out all of 2020. Due to all of the circumstances, both the short-term and long-term ailments, it’s basically impossible to know what we should expect. That said, he looked great pre-dead arm in spring, so there is reason for optimism if you’re looking for it.
On the other side, the Red Sox are looking to get another shot at Matt Harvey after the pitcher won the first matchup. To be fair, the Orioles right was not quite dominant in that start, and only made it through 4 2⁄3 innings. That said, the Red Sox also managed only a pair of runs on six hits and one walk with four strikeouts. The former Mets star leaned most heavily on control in that start, and I’d be looking for the Red Sox to be a bit more patient this time around. He has had control problems throughout his career and especially recently, so only drawing one walk is playing into his hands. He’ll lean most heavily on his fastball, which sat around 93 mph last weekend, while also mixing in a changeup, slider and curveball.
4/10: Garrett Richards vs. Bruce Zimmermann, 7:05 PM ET
For the most part, the Red Sox rotation was incredibly successful in their first run through. There was just one blemish, and that came from Garrett Richards. He’s looking to reverse that trend this time around and get his command back in order. The righty was dealing with some command issues for a lot of the spring, but it had seemed he solved the mechanical issues that were leading to the wonky command. Those issues resurfaced on Sunday in the series finale against Baltimore as his shelling led to the sweep-clinching loss. He didn’t record a single out in the third inning in that one, so we’ll take baby steps. Get through three this time, and then we’ll take it from there.
On the other side, he is once again matching up against the young Zimmermann, who looked pretty good in that first start of the year. On Sunday, the former Braves prospect made it through six strong innings, allowing just three runs on four hits and one walk with five strikeouts. Zimmermann is part of a line of prospects coming up now and over the next year or so for Baltimore. He doesn’t have the upside of others, but as we have seen first-hand he certainly has the ability to stick in a major-league rotation. The righty will not come equipped with big-time stuff, but he leans on a fastball that sat around 92 mph to go with a changeup, a curveball and a slider.
4/11: Nick Pivetta vs. Jorge López, 1:05 PM ET
The biggest wildcard in this Red Sox rotation, at least in the opinion of this writer, is Nick Pivetta. The story for him has been the same for years now: He has big stuff, but he struggles to always put it where he wants and he can get predictable at times. His season debut certainly went well against the Rays, even if some of those issues showed up again. Most notably, his fastball command was all over the place. He got away with it in that first start, and that’s a mix of reasons. Part of it is he got fortunate going up against a Rays lineup that never really had it going on at Fenway. The other part is the stuff is good enough that he can get away with those outings from time to time. If he’s yanking his fastball all over the place consistently, it will catch up with him, but we saw the benefit of good stuff: It can always be hard to hit on any given day, regardless of location.
For this series finale on Sunday the Red Sox will get their first look of the year at López. The righty has been bouncing all around baseball for pretty much his entire career at this point, having arrived in Baltimore shortly after the 2020 season began. Last summer was decidedly not good for him, as he struggled to miss bats (16 percent) and gave up a few too many homers. That’s basically the MO for López, as he is not going to miss a lot of bats. If he can keep his command in check and avoid hard contact he can get the job done, but judging by his 6.06 career ERA that has not really been the case very often. In his season debut against the Yankees, he allowed four runs over 4 2⁄3 innings on three hits and three walks with five strikeouts. He’ll throw a pair of fastballs that sit 93-94 mph, and also go to a curveball and the occasional changeup.
Notable Position Players
Cedric Mullins was the star of that opening weekend series at Fenway. Baltimore’s outfielder was a wildcard for that lineup heading into the season, and the early returns have been phenomenal as he’s hitting .480/.519/.720 through the first week. Against the Red Sox, he had multiple hits in all three games including a five-hit game.
Trey Mancini remains the story of baseball and will be throughout the year as he comes back from colon cancer that kept him out last season. The start to this season has been rough at the plate, though, with just four hits in his first six games.
Anthony Santander was a big breakout for Baltimore last year before an injury stopped his season in its tracks. He’s 6-22 to start this season with one homer to his name.
Ryan Mountcastle has some questions about his long-term home defensively, but the young righty can hit, although he’s off to a similar start to that of Mancini.
Maikel Franco was signed by Baltimore towards the end of camp, and while he’s struggling to get going here too much he can still hit the ball hard every time up.
Rio Ruiz made some great plays against the Red Sox in the field last weekend, and he has one homer in five games to start this season.
Freddy Galvis has had a tough time replacing José Iglesias over the first week of the season with just three hits to this point in the year.
Pedro Severino will do much of the catching for Baltimore, and he’s off to a solid start with five hits in five games, though four are singles.
Ramón Urias just entered the starting lineup due to injury, and is a light-hitting middle infielder.
César Valdez has quickly emerged as the top reliever in this bullpen, grabbing a pair of saves and a win early in this season. The righty had spent most of his professional career in Mexico before joining the O’s last summer, and he’s off to a hot start this year with five strikeouts and one walk in 4 1⁄3 innings.
Tanner Scott is another late-inning arm we’ll likely be seeing this week, particularly with lefties coming up. He can have some trouble hitting the zone from time to time, but when his command is even close to on his stuff can be unhittable.
Dillon Tate is the secondary set up man, but there’s a bit drop in quality here from the other two. Tate can still be plenty successful, of course, but the dominance isn’t quite there.
Austin Hays was put on the IL right after the series last weekend with some tightness in his hamstring. He won’t play this weekend, but the Orioles aren’t anticipating a long-term absence here.
Chris Davis is dealing with back problems that landed him on the 60-day injured list to start this season, and there’s a decent chance he won’t be back in this lineup at all this season.
Hunter Harvey has always dealt with injury issues throughout his professional career, and he was bit by the injury bug again in camp. Due to an oblique issue, he was put on the 60-day IL and will be out for at least another six weeks or so.
DJ Stewart is dealing with a hamstring issue of his own that caused him to miss most of camp, but there is a chance he could be back at some point in this series. If so, he’ll get some time in the corner outfield.
There shouldn’t be any issues for the game on Thursday, but there are some questions for Saturday and Sunday. It’s certainly not a shoo-in for a rainout, and right now it looks more positive than negative, but for Saturday especially be prepared for the possibility of at least a delay at some point.