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Red Sox vs. Orioles Series Preview

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A look at this weekend’s three-game set at Fenway against the O’s.

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Boston Red Sox Spring Training Workout Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

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Camden Chat

The opponent in one sentence

Baltimore, who is allowing the most and scoring the third-least runs per game in the American League, has dropped seven in a row and sits a season-high 30 games out of first place in the AL East.

Record

38-75

Head-to-head record

Red Sox 6, Orioles 4

Trend

Down. The O’s had put together a nice 10-5 stretch from July 17 to August 2 but have come crashing down to earth ever since. They’ve won just once this month and surrendered nine or more runs in six of nine games played since the end of July.

Pitching Matchups

8/13: Nick Pivetta vs. Spenser Watkins, 7:10pm

Pivetta is fresh off of a stellar outing last Saturday in which he one-hit the Blue Jays over six innings, but ultimately took a loss in the first game of a doubleheader. For the team, It was a gut-punch loss in a key divisional game. But Pivetta was outstanding. It was another solid start and even though results aren’t always there — he’s just 2-2 over his last five starts — Pivetta is pitching well. His walk and hard hit rate is trending downward while the strikeouts are going up. Pivetta’s been one of Boston’s more reliable starters all year long and his next appearance comes at the right time. Momentum in baseball rarely changes with just one start, but hopefully Pivetta can be the start of something new for a team that desperately needs it.

The 28-year old rookie, Watkins has been one of a few rotating pieces on the back-end of the Orioles rotation. He made his debut on July 2 and has since become a regular starter. He was excellent to open his major league career but struggled as of late. Over his last three outings, Watkins is 0-3 with a 6.89 ERA. He is prone to hard contact and with a whiff rate of 8.6%, he doesn’t miss many bats.

Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays - Game One Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

8/14: Chris Sale vs. Jorge López, 4:10pm

This weekend’s headliner: The Return of Sale Day. It’s entirely unfair for there to be this much pressure on a guy who hasn’t made an MLB start in almost exactly two years (Sale’s last start came on August 13, 2019), but that’s where we are. In lieu of making a splash at the trade deadline for a guy like Jose Berrios or Max Scherzer, they put Sale’s return into motion. Sale made five rehab starts in the minors, posting a 1.35 ERA and 1.10 WHIP along with 35 strikeouts over 20 innings. He’s leading the reinforcements and will be eased back into big league action against the lowly O’s on Saturday.

López leads the Orioles in starts but also in losses. The six-year MLB veteran leans on his fastball, but struggles with walks and hard contact. López has only faced the Sox twice this year and each was radically different. On April 11, the righty was shelled for seven runs over five innings in a 14-9 loss, but he came back and beat the Sox by dealing 5 ⅔ innings of one-run ball in a 4-1 victory. His last two starts against the Yankees and Rays have been positive indicators. López combined for 12 innings and just three earned runs on five hits between those two outings.

8/15: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Bruce Zimmermann, 1:10pm

Rodriguez is settling into a groove for the first time since this season. It’s been a long road back after a difficult bout with Covid-19 in 2020, but Eddie’s been steady over the past few weeks. He struggled in consecutive starts marred by migraine symptoms, but has pitched well outside of them. Over his last seven non-migraine-affected starts, Rodriguez has an ERA of 2.25 and struck out 45 while walking just nine. The Red Sox are 9-3 in the last dozen games Rodriguez has pitched.

Zimmermann, who went down with bicep tendonitis on June 18, will be fresh off of the IL when he climbs the hill on Sunday afternoon. He looked sturdy enough over five no-hit innings in a rehab start for the Norfolk Tides on Wednesday that the Orioles feel comfortable declaring him fit for this weekend. He’s been the best of a young crop of Oriole arms that are eating innings while the club awaits help from other top pitching prospects, but it’s a low bar, as our friends at Camden Chat can attest. He currently owns a 4.83 ERA, but is only striking out 7.99 batters per nine innings and opponents are hitting .283 against Zimmermann.

Old Friends

Travis Lakins Jr. — a sixth round pick of the Red Sox in 2015 — spent four years in the Red Sox system before he was traded to the Cubs in January 2020. He was released by the Cubs 10 days later then picked up by Baltimore shortly after.

Konner Wade made his way to the Sox farm system after being released by the Rockies in March 2018. He played in 36 games in the Atlantic League and Mexican Winter League before Pawtucket signed Wade midway through the 2019 season.

Right-handed pitcher Shaun Anderson appeared in two games for low-A Lowell in 2016 then returned to the Red Sox organization in 2017, during which he played 18 games for high-A Salem and Single-A Grenville.

Notable Position Players

Outfielder Cedric Mullins is one of the best young talents in baseball. He ranks fifth in the majors in batting average and total bases, second in hits and seventh in position player WAR. Did I mention that he’s stolen 21 bases too?

Trey Mancini is another strong bat in the Baltimore lineup. He put his power on full display in the Home Run Derby and ranks second on the team in OPS+ at 114.

Right fielder Anthony Santander is batting .253 with 10 home runs in just 72 games so far this year. He missed significant time in early May with a wrist injury, hence the relatively limited action.

Bullpen Snapshot

A young trio of Dillon Tate, Paul Fry and Tanner Scott do most of the heavy lifting for the Baltimore bullpen. All have thrown more than 40 innings this year and own ERAs under 5 and WHIPs under 1.500. The crop relievers are lefty-heavy, which should aid some of Boston’s struggling righty hitters like Xander Boegarts and JD Martinez. Baltimore is eager to get right-hander Tyler Wells — who owns a 3.92 ERA and 6.11 K/BB — back in the mix. He walked one but pitched a scoreless inning against the Tigers on Thursday in his first appearance after coming off the 10-day IL.

Injuries

Designated hitter Ryan Mountcastle will be one of the only notable absences. was placed on the seven-day IL with a concussion on August 8. He’d be eligible to play on Sunday, but is expected to stay out of the lineup regardless. Mountcastle leads the O’s with 63 RBIs.

Weather Forecast

It’ll be hot once and sticky again in Boston on Friday with temperatures stopping just short of 90 degrees at game time, but Saturday should provide some relief. Afternoon thunderstorms are expected to relieve some of the heat and humidity. There’s a chance they could delay Saturday’s 4:10pm start, but rain is expected to clear out by the 5 o’clock hour. Sunday’s forecast is clear and temperatures will be in the upper 70’s at first pitch.