SB Nation Blog
The opponent in one sentence
The Orioles find themselves in the same place they could be found for the majority of the previous five seasons, in last place in the AL East, and last in all of baseball with a .301 slugging percentage.
Down. After taking two out of three from the Angels last weekend, the Orioles were swept by the Yankees in the Bronx this week.
4/29: Rich Hill (0-1, 4.85) vs. Kyle Bradish (MLB Debut), 7:05 PM ET
The Red Sox turn to Hill to get things back on track in the opener on Friday. Hill threw four shutout innings in his most recent outing in Tampa Bay, not factoring into the decision. Hill will need to focus on throwing strikes, as his 7:8 BB:K ratio in his first three starts is a step back from last year where he walked 2.7 per nine innings and struck out 8.4 batters per nine. With Tanner Houck not getting a start in Toronto, and also not a probable starter in Baltimore, it seems likely that he would follow Hill out of the bullpen in this start. Playing their 15th game in 15 days, the Sox bullpen could use some rest if Hill and Houck can get them through the majority of Friday’s game.
While many Orioles fans (and baseball fans) are awaiting the debut of top prospect Grayson Rodriguez, it will be Kyle Bradish who makes his first career start on Friday. The 25-year-old Bradish has been excellent in all three of his starts at Triple-A this season, allowing only two earned runs and striking out 17 in 15 innings, while walking three. Bradish throws in the mid-90s, touching 97 with his fastball, with a decent curveball and slider, and an average changeup. Facing an inexperienced pitcher with high walk totals throughout the minor leagues would be a good time for the Red Sox offense to break out.
4/30: Nathan Eovaldi (1-0, 3.32) vs. Spenser Watkins (0-0, 2.87), 7:05 PM ET
Four starts into the season, the surface numbers for Eovaldi aren’t bad but he has given up a good amount of hard contact, sitting in the bottom 20 percentile in Hard Hit Rate, Barrel %, Average Exit Velocity, and xSLG%. To no surprise, he’s given up seven home runs, albeit with an unreasonable 30.4 HR/FB%. With Camden Yards increasing the height of the wall and moving the fence back in left field, as well as facing a team that sits last in all of baseball in slugging percentage, Eovaldi can hopefully stabilize that home run rate a bit on Saturday.
Watkins is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in three career appearances, spanning seven innings against Boston. The right-handed Watkins is a reverse splits pitcher, who incredibly is allowing a .000 average to left-handed hitters this season and a .360 average to right-handers. He has a 7.05 career ERA in 67 2⁄3 innings, and the Red Sox should be a significant favorite in Vegas on Saturday evening despite entering this series only 1 1⁄2 games ahead of the Orioles.
5/1: Nick Pivetta (0-3, 8.27) vs. Jordan Lyles (1-2, 5.40), 1:05 PM ET
Pivetta looked better in his fourth start on Tuesday after three mild disasters to start the season. His curveball was sharp and when pitching out of the windup, he threw with confidence. Things slowed down and he struggled to get on the same page as Christian Vazquez with runners on. Pivetta’s baseball savant page is rather unsightly at the moment but he does rank in the 62nd percentile in Whiff%. With the Orioles striking out 26.1% of the time (28th in MLB), Pivetta could see a solid strikeout number and hopes to get through five innings for the first time since his opening start of the season.
Lyles was coming off two straight great starts before the Yankees tagged him for six runs and three home runs in 4 2⁄3 on Tuesday. Lyles led all of baseball with 38 home runs allowed last season, and with the Red Sox entering this series going an entire week since their last long ball, Lyles would be a nice target to tee off on.
Notable Position Players
Cedric Mullins: Mullins was an “exactly 30/30” guy last season, a breakout that very few saw coming. Through 19 games, Mullins is hitting just .205 with two home runs and eight RBI. Something makes me think that he’s due to get hot.
Trey Mancini: A cancer survivor, Mancini was one of the great stories of 2021, returning to hit 21 home runs and play 147 games in his return. He is off to a bit of a slow start, with a .236/.288/.333 slash line thus far, and an 83 wRC+. His hard-hit rate is in the top 10 percentile, however, and Savant has his xBA at .318. Another misleading slow start.
Anthony Santander: Leading the team with three home runs, Santander has a 17.3% walk rate leading to a .395 OBP thus far. He has plenty of pop, hitting 52 HRs in 258 games since the start of 2019.
Ryan Mountcastle: Mountcastle blasted 33 HRs during a breakout 2021 but will likely be affected by the fences moving back at Camden as much as any hitter in the organization. His .232/.264/.290 slash line is not the follow-up that the Orioles were hoping for. He missed the previous two games with neck pain but is expected to return on Friday.
Austin Hays: The 26-year-old Hays has been a “sleeper” for years now and his 20 HR, 71 RBI, 73 run season last year showed some potential. He has hit clean up the last two games in Mountcastle’s absence, including a four-hit game on Thursday, and his 10.4% walk rate so far this year has kept him on base at a good clip (.364 OBP).
Jorge Mateo: It’s unlikely we’ll ever see much power out of Mateo’s bat, but man can this guy run. Since coming over from San Diego last year, Mateo has stolen 12 bases in 49 games, including seven already this season. While he’s mixed in some outfield historically, Mateo is the everyday shortstop in Baltimore this season.
The bullpen has been the strength of the Orioles squad thus far. Jorge Lopez has been a reliable closer, with four saves and striking out 13 batters in nine innings. Dillon Tate has a 2.61 ERA and 0.68 WHIP in 10 1⁄3 innings. Joey Khrebiel has allowed just one earned run in eight outings. Keegan Akin is more of a long man but has a 1.54 ERA and 0.60 WHIP over 11 2⁄3 innings. Felix Bautista (3.38 ERA) and Bryan Baker (6.14 ERA) round out the middle relievers for the O’s.
SP John Means (Tommy John surgery)
SP Chris Ellis (Shoulder inflammation)
SP Dean Kremer (Oblique strain)
After seven road games played in domes, the Red Sox will finally play outdoors at Camden Yards, beginning Friday. The forecast calls for temperatures in the mid-to-high 60’s all three days, dropping down into the 50’s during the Friday and Saturday evening games. There is little to no risk of rain during any of the three games.