SB Nation Blog
The opponent in one sentence
The Orioles continue to hang around .500 longer than anyone expects, though much of that success has come away from Baltimore as they have struggled mightily at home in 2021.
Up. The last time these two sides met the Red Sox were part of a downward turn for Baltimore, but the last week or so has been much better. The O’s are coming off a very nice west coast trip, winning each of their last two series and splitting one with the Yankees before that. Overall, they’ve won seven of their last 11.
5/7: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Matt Harvey, 7:05 PM ET
Rodriguez is mostly picking up right where he left off in 2019, even if the results don’t quite paint that picture. His ERA is up above 4.00 which is not what you want to see, but he’s striking out exactly 10 batters per nine innings while walking just one per nine, which suggests betters results are right around the corner. He also has looked confident for most of the ear, and especially as he’s begun to come back a bit after his delayed start. The pace has looked good and he’s largely done a good job of mixing in all of his pitches. He is coming off a tough outing in Texas where he was hit around a bit, but this is a good opportunity for a bounce back against his former club. He faced Baltimore in his first start of the year, allowing three runs over five innings with seven strikeouts and no walks.
Harvey is becoming something of a familiar face to the Red Sox lineup, as this is already the third time this year they’ll be matched up against the former Mets star. The righty doesn’t really have dominant stuff and his strikeout rate looks like it’s from a different era at just barely over six per nine, but he’s still gotten solid results thanks to good control and an ability so far to keep the ball in the yard. In recent seasons homers have been the downfall for Harvey, so the Red Sox would like to get back on that train and hit a few out of the park on Friday night. They’ve hit just one in two meetings with him so far this year. In those two meetings he allowed a combined six runs over 9 2⁄3 innings with nine strikeouts and two walks. Harvey will feature a pair of fastballs that generally sit in the low 90s along with a slider, plus the occasional curveball and changeup.
5/8: Garrett Richards vs. TBD, 7:05 PM ET
For most of April, Richards was the blemish in an otherwise really solid Red Sox rotation. The righty struggled mightily with his control, which was even more concerning after a spring that saw similar issues. It had never really been much of a problem for most of his career, and thankfully he’s turned things around with two strong starts since then. He’ll look to make it three in a row here in Baltimore, and it will be the walk totals to watch the most. Over these last two outings he’s issued just one walk, but in his first two outings (which both came against the Orioles) he walked five over seven innings. He also allowed eight runs in those starts, so this is a bit of revenge-seeking for the Red Sox righty.
It’s not really clear who’s going to get the start for this one as of now. They have a couple of starters, including Bruce Zimmermann who the Red Sox have seen this year already, in Triple-A. But I’d just be speculating if I made any sort of prediction, so I’ll sit that out
5/9: Nick Pivetta vs. Dean Kremer, 1:05 PM ET (MLB Network for out-of-market)
I’m really not sure what I think about Pivetta at this point, which I realize I’ve written in these spaces a few times already at this point. The righty still seems like a house of cards to me, although I’m sure some of that is the fact that I was relatively low on him coming into the year. Those biases are hard to shake, even if we don’t like to acknowledge that fact. Most of my apprehension here is with his walk issues, as he’s walking 15 percent of his opponents. It seems impossible to succeed long-term with those control issues. That said, he has an ERA of 3.23 and he’s coming off a strong outing with eight strikeouts and two walks his last time out. The stuff is undeniably good and he’s not finding the meat of the zone as much which is certainly helping keep the ball in the park. I’m not there yet, but at a certain point you have to believe what you’re seeing. With Pivetta, we’re seeing winning results for the most part. In his only start against Baltimore this year he allowed four runs over six innings with three walks and seven strikeouts.
Kremer is one of the better prospects in the Orioles organization and is just about getting ready to graduate from his prospect status. The results haven’t quite been there so far in the majors across the last two seasons, as inconsistent command is getting to him against the best hitters in the world. He can certainly miss bats, though, so look for the Red Sox to be patient against the righty and let him make his own mistakes. The rookie is coming off a very strong outing in Seattle, though, in which he allowed just one run over six innings with four strikeouts and two walks. This will be the first time Boston faces Kremer this season. He’ll feature mainly a fastball that sits in the low 90s along with a curveball and a cutter. He’ll also mix in a changeup here and there.
5/10: Martín Pérez vs. Jorge López, 7:05 PM ET
With Richards starting to turn things around of late, it is Pérez who is currently struggling the most out of Red Sox starters. He hasn’t really been a disaster, to be fair, there just hasn’t been a whole lot of great starts either. Last year that would have been a bigger concern since he was thrust to the top of the rotation, but as the de facto fifth starter this season it’s not much of an issue. They just want him to not take them out of games, and he’s succeeded in that role. He’s also gotten by allowing just one homer so far this year, and that has been a major part of his success. It’s hard to know how long that trend can last. This will be his first start against Baltimore this year.
López has been bouncing around the league for the last few years, but he has yet to really find a path to consistent success. He’s struggling again for Baltimore in 2021, pitching to a 6.49 ERA over six starts and averaging fewer than five innings per start. His strikeout rate is up, but with that rise has come an increase in his walk rate as well as major home run issues. As we said with Kremer above, it will be about waiting for López to make a mistake and not letting him dictate his approach. The mistakes will certainly come. The Red Sox have seen him once this year and they scored seven runs over four innings, striking out four times and walking once.
Travis Lakins Sr. was a sixth round pick by the Red Sox out of Ohio State back in 2015, and there were times when he looked like a solid starting pitching prospect. Health never really let him succeed in that role, though, and switching to the bullpen didn’t help much either. He’s bounced around a bit the last few years, settling in right now as a middle relief option for the Orioles.
Notable Position Players
Cedric Mullins has been by far the best player on the Orioles so far this year, and he’s done quite a bit of damage against the Red Sox in their six matchups. He’s making a ton of good contact right now with an above-average approach at the plate, and it’s leading to a lot of hits, many of them going for extra bases.
Trey Mancini is probably the best story in baseball this year given his comeback from a cancer diagnosis last year, and he’s been a good contributor on the field as well. He hasn’t quite been a star at the plate, but he’s been safely above average with solid power and decent plate discipline numbers.
Austin Hays is turning it on a little bit of late, showing off the power he needs to be successful given his aggressive style at the plate.
Maikel Franco is generally a guy who relies on his power to succeed, and while his approach at the plate has been solid this year he’s been unable to hit much with authority which is bringing his overall line down well below average.
DJ Stewart has been in a similar situation to Franco’s, with a lack of power overshadowing what has been a really good approach with a ton of walks.
Ryan Mountcastle has the talent to be a really good pure hitter in this league, even if his defensive future is a question. This year, though, has been dreadful with a ton of strikeouts, very few walks, and only one homer so far.
Freddy Galvis has been a really big surprise down lower in this lineup, particularly with a .200 Isolated Power that is boosting his line up above average.
Rio Ruiz is an all-or-nothing kind of hitter, and right now it’s been more nothing than all.
Pedro Severino doesn’t need to do a ton as a catcher, but his total lack of power right now is putting his line below average even considering his position.
César Valdez has been legitimately awesome as the Orioles closer and is going to be a tough matchup if the Red Sox find themselves behind in a close game this weekend. He misses a good number of bats, but it’s his ability to control the zone that is most impressive. It’s helped lead to a 1.32 ERA with a FIP right in that range as well.
Tanner Scott and Paul Fry are the two main setup arms in this bullpen, and they both throw from the left side. Both can miss bats, though Scott has major control issues. That hasn’t led to an inflated ERA just yet, but he’s playing with fire. Fry has been a bit more balanced.
Anthony Santander went down with an ankle injury a couple of weeks ago, and while it doesn’t appear to be anything too severe he is still expected to miss at least another two weeks.
Hunter Harvey is out with an oblique injury that will have him miss at least the next few weeks, though there hasn’t been any specific timetable so it could be longer.
Chris Davis has been out all year with a back injury, and it seems like Baltimore will just keep him out for the entire season.
Mac Sceroler went down with a shoulder injury in mid-April, and there’s been no timetable for his return.
It’s going to be an interesting weekend weather-wise down in Baltimore, as there is rain in the forecast for pretty much all four of these days. It seems right now that Saturday and Monday should be safe, but at least delays could be in play for the games on both Friday and Sunday.