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Red Sox vs. Orioles Series Preview

Looking at this weekend’s busy slate at Fenway.

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The opponent in one sentence

The Orioles are certainly still not to the point where we can call them a contender, but their bullpen has been impressive and they’re starting to get some of their young talent up to the majors, meaning the light at the end of the tunnel is at least in sight.

Record

18-27

Head-to-head record

Red Sox 1, Orioles 2

Trend

Neutral. The Orioles were looking very really feisty early in the month before a long losing streak brought them back to Earth, but they’ve evened out since then. Most recently they lost two of three to the Yankees, but looking a bit further back they have won four of their last seven.

Pitching Matchups

5/27: Garrett Whitlock vs. Kyle Bradish, 7:10 PM ET (Apple TV+)

When he first joined the rotation, Whitlock certainly looked like he was up for the switch and that the lone barrier was going to be how quickly he’d be able to get stretched out and what the end result of that process would be. His last couple of outings have been shaky, though. His command has been off of late, and over his last three starts he’s pitched to an ugly 8.18 ERA over just 11 innings (fewer than four innings per start, for all my math heads out there), with 11 strikeouts and six walks. One thing that has stood out has been his pace in this role. In the bullpen, he worked quickly and confidently, but as a starter the pace is much more deliberate. I’d like to see him get back to working more quickly even if he can’t work quite as quickly as he did in relief.

Bradish is a former fourth round pick who has emerged as one of Baltimore’s better pitching prospects. The righty is currently getting his first taste of the majors, having made five starts with the O’s this season. He’s been solid at missing bats and has an above-average walk rate, but he’s towards the bottom of the league in just about every contact quality metric and it’s resulted in six homers in 26 23 innings. Given the way the Red Sox are swinging the bats right now, this looks like a good matchup for them to keep these good times rolling. Bradish will mostly lean on his fastball and slider while mixing in occasional changeups and curveballs.

5/28: Nathan Eovaldi vs. TBD, 12:10 PM ET (MLB Network for out-of-market)

This has been a bizarre season for Eovaldi, and we’re deep enough into the year that we have to wonder if this is just the pitcher we can expect moving forward. He’s certainly not bad, and for the most part has kept the team in every game he’s pitched. Striking out 26 percent of his opponents with a four percent walk rate, he’s been phenomenal at controlling the zone. But he can’t keep the ball in the park. Eovaldi has already allowed a staggering 15 home runs, tying his total from all of 2021. In nine starts, he’s only gone one without allowing a long ball. The good news? That outing was against Baltimore.

This is a scheduled doubleheader, a result of trying to squeeze in 162 games after the lockout, and the Orioles have not announced their starters for either game. We should expect to see Jordan Lyles for one of the games, though. It just may not be this one. But Lyles was a free agent signing from this past winter, and he’s been... fine. The righty has been basically average across the board, leading to a 4.10 ERA and 4.18 FIP, which is basically, well, average. Lyles will feature a low-90s fastball along with a slider, sinker, changeup, and curveball.

5/28: TBD vs. TBD, 6:10 PM ET

Officially the Red Sox have the starter for this second game as TBD, but we know it’s going to be prospect Josh Winckowski. The headliner in the return for Andrew Benintendi, the righty has had an impressive year at Triple-A Worcester and is being rewarded with his major-league debut this weekend. In seven starts and 31 23 innings with Worcester this year, he’s pitched to a 3.13 ERA with 34 strikeouts and only six walks. He’s coming off a tough outing in which he allowed five runs, but he was red hot before that. I’d look for him to have a relatively short leash here and will probably just go three or four innings, (assuming Eovaldi doesn’t get knocked out early, at least). But it’s always exciting to see one of the top prospects getting his first chance.

Frankly, I really don’t know what the plan here is for the non-Lyles game for Baltimore, and I don’t think it’s very productive to just take a wild guess.

5/29: Nick Pivetta vs. Bruce Zimmermann, 1:35 PM ET

While Eovaldi has been looking to find his footing and turn back into that consistent ace-quality pitcher the Red Sox need atop their rotation, they’ve been getting other pitchers to step up in his stead. Lately, that’s been Pivetta. He is among the hottest pitchers in all of baseball at the moment, sitting with a 1.61 ERA over his last four starts, striking out 25 and walking only three over 28 innings. Things really started turning around five starts ago too, and that came against the Orioles. That wasn’t a great outing in a vacuum, but he finally figured out his control issues here. Now he gets a chance to show them what his best self looks like.

Zimmermann got his first extended taste of major-league hitting last season, and things didn’t go very well. The key for a rebuilding team is to see growth, though, and the lefty is showing some. He still hasn’t been great, to be clear, but his control is much improved which has helped lead him to league-average results. There are still some home run issues here, and the strikeout stuff is more fine than good, but he’s better than the pitcher we saw a few times in the second half a year ago.

5/30: Rich Hill vs. Tyler Wells, 7:10 PM ET

The final game of this long series will feature Rich Hill, who has frankly been much better than I expected this season. The veteran is not going to go deep into games, but he’s shown that he can hold lineups down for the most part and let their offense do their thing. The last time out that didn’t work out as well as the offense didn’t give him much support, meaning a three-run homer was enough to take a loss. But for the most part, we can expect four or five good innings out of him before handing off to Tanner Houck for two or three good innings from there.

Wells is another pitcher who got his first taste of the majors last season, though he was doing so out of the bullpen before transitioning to the rotation this season. The shift has led to a startlingly big drop in his strikeout rate. That drop is always expected to a certain extent, of course, but a drop from 29 percent to 16 percent stands out in a different way. Even so, his very good control has allowed him to pitch to roughly league-average results and peripherals. He typically goes only five innings per start, but he’s also only allowed more than three runs in an outing once this year, and it was in his first start of the year. Wells will feature a fastball, changeup, slider, and curveball.

Boston Red Sox v Chicago White Sox Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Old Friends

Chris Owings has been a journeyman throughout his career, and had a quick pitstop with the Red Sox in 2019. He’s now serving a bench role for Baltimore.

Notable Position Players

Adley Rutschman just came up to the majors as the top prospect in the game, and is the face of this Orioles rebuild. Picked number one overall in 2019, Baltimore hopes he can lead their franchise for at least the next decade as a great two-way catcher. The early returns have been fine, but it’s only been five games, so he’ll nearly double his major-league experience by the end of this series.

Cedric Mullins was a surprise borderline MVP candidate last season, but he’s had some trouble finding that power again and has just been a league-average bat so far this year.

Austin Hays has instead been the best player on the Orioles and is an underrated part of their future. He’s been good across the board this year and has put up a 130 wRC+.

Anthony Santander had a down year in 2021 after a breakout 2020, but he’s back to being an above-average bat in the middle of this lineup, largely on the back of far and way the best plate discipline he’s shown in his career.

Trey Mancini is another player showing a bit less power than expected — the Orioles moving their left field fence back is evident in a lot of these numbers — but a good ability to make contact has still left him above-average overall.

Ryan Mountcastle hasn’t been able to make up for the lack of power like some of his teammates, as his plate discipline makes that power more important than it may be for some others.

Rougned Odor kills the Yankees, which is always fun, but otherwise is a free swinger who good pitchers should be able to handle more in most of his at bats.

Ramón Urías plays solid defense up the middle, but offensively doesn’t contribute a whole lot.

Jorge Mateo has been the worst regular hitter in this lineup, with a 60 wRC+ on the season.

Bullpen Snapshop

Jorge López leads the way in a bullpen that has been shockingly good and comes in with the fourth best ERA in baseball. A lot of López’ success has come from not yet allowing a home run, but his ERA is 1.29.

Félix Bautista is probably the most intimidating reliever in this bullpen, as he misses a ton of bats and has some really impressive stuff, though he can get into trouble with command lapses from time to time.

Dillon Tate is not really the prototypical reliever as he doesn’t generate a ton of strikeouts, but his great command has led to terrific results so far this season.

Weather Forecast

The weather mostly looks good for this Memorial Day weekend at Fenway, but the doubleheader on Saturday could be one that is affected by rain. It doesn’t look like a total washout, but there is at least some rain potential in the forecast basically throughout the day, so at least some delays could be in play.


A big thank you to FanGraphs, and particularly their Roster Resource tool, as well as Baseball Savant for research.