The Orioles barely get a chance to lick their wounds after being swept by the Blue Jays, as the Red Sox come to town for a four-game series beginning Thursday night.
The fact that this series is being played in Camden Yards should worry Oriole fans, as the team has gone 4-11 at home.
Overall, the Birds sit at 12-12, third place in the American League East and four games behind the Yankees. The Orioles are currently clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot, a half game ahead of the Blue Jays.
To say this season has not gone well for the Red Sox would be an understatement. Boston is 7-18, and only the Pirates have a worse record.
The Red Sox have dropped nine of their last 10 and are being outscored by a Major-League-leading 49 runs. Before defeating the Phillies last night, the team was on a nine-game losing streak that saw them get outscored 86-41.
The Orioles offense has remained hot, amassing 27 hits in their three games against Toronto, even in three losing efforts. The Orioles are third in the A.L. in runs scored per game with 5.12, first in the A.L. in batting average, fourth in on-base percentage and second in OPS.
Anthony Santander has become a break-out star in the offense, hitting nine home runs (good for third in the majors) and driving in 25, second in baseball behind only Fernando Tatis Jr. Santander is also second to Tatis in total bases with 68.
Hanser Alberto leads the majors in doubles, and Pedro Severino ranks 10th in batting average at .338. Needless to say, offense has not been the issue for the Orioles recently.
The Orioles’ pitching, on the other hand, has been quite disappointing. The starters posted an ERA of 7.02 against the Blue Jays, and on the season, the staff as a whole sports a 4.77 ERA and is allowing 5.2 runs per game. A bright spot of the staff has been their ability to limit walks. Oriole pitching has issued three walks per game, good for second in the A.L.
The Red Sox’s struggles this year have mostly been attributed to their lackluster pitching; however, the offense hasn’t exactly been lights out, either.
The team scores 4.4 runs per game, fifth fewest in the A.L. This is a direct result of the team struggling with runners on base, having left 167 runners stranded this season, second most in the A.L.
The Red Sox strike out at a very high rate, with the third most K’s in the American League. Mitch Moreland has been the Red Sox hottest hitter and only regular batting over .300, coming into the series batting .348 with six home runs and 14 RBI.
Most of Boston’s struggles this season can be attributed to their pitching. Their team ERA is a whopping 6.22, which includes a 6.89 ERA from their starting pitching. The team has surrendered an A.L.-leading 42 home runs and walked an A.L.-leading 4.4 batters per game.
The pitching matchups for this series are as follows:
Thursday – Asher Wojciechowski (1-2, 4.34) vs. Nathan Eovaldi (1-2, 5.93)
Wojciechowski has pitched well this season, giving up only five earned runs in his last 13.2 innings pitched. Wojo has yet to go past five innings and has kept his pitch count below 80 in his last three starts. Current Red Sox bat only .143 against Wojciechowski in 42 at-bats.
Eovaldi has certainly struggled this season, giving up the highest home run rate of his career, even as he logs the lowest walk rate. In his last game on August 15 against the Yankees, Eovaldi surrendered eight earned runs and three home runs in the loss. Current Orioles bat .278 against Eovaldi with four home runs in 54 at-bats. Renato Núñez has gone 6-for-9 with two home runs against the veteran right-hander.
Friday – John Means (0-1, 10.57) vs. undecided
John Means’ prove-it season has not started as he would have hoped. After battling some injuries, Means did not make it through an inning in his last start against the Nationals. Given that Means has pitched seven innings on the season, we do not expect him to go many innings in this game, opening up the opportunity for Jorge López to log some innings. Current Red Sox are batting .261 with three home runs against Means in 69 at-bats.
Saturday – Alex Cobb (1-2, 3.76) vs. Martin Perez (2-3, 4.07)
Cobb continues to impress in his bounce-back season with the Orioles; however, his performances have gotten a bit more shaky in his last three starts. Cobb logged his longest start of the year against the Blue Jays on Monday but did surrender five earned runs. Cobb will have to be on his game Saturday, as current Red Sox bat .342 against him in 146 at-bats. This includes a 10-for-14 for Christian Vazquez and a 10-for-19 for J.D. Martinez.
Perez has been Boston’s best starter on the season, but he struggled in his last start against the Yankees, going just three innings and giving up three earned runs. Current Orioles are batting .246 against Perez with three home runs in 57 at-bats. Hanser Alberto is 5-for-9.
Sunday – Wade LeBlanc (1-0, 7.89) vs. Zach Godley (0-2, 6.87)
LeBlanc’s 2020 has not been pretty thus far, as he has failed to get out of the fourth inning in three straight starts. Current Red Sox hit .253 against LeBlanc in 83 at-bats
Zach Godley has been very inconsistent this season for the Red Sox. After giving up eight earned runs in three innings against the Rays August 12, he limited the Phillies to one run over four innings August 18. Current Orioles bat .136 against Godley in 22 at-bats.
Keys to the Series:
Eliminate fundamental mistakes:
This goes without saying for the Orioles coming off the disastrous series against Toronto.
A base running mistake cost them a victory Tuesday evening and a base running/coaching error cost them runs Wednesday that could have changed the complexion of the game.
This is not new for the team this season, as their have been several games in which base runners forgot the number of outs.
Included in this fundamental key is situational hitting. The Orioles had, seemingly, a half dozen chances with runners in scoring position throughout the series with no outs, yet could not turn that into runs.
The Orioles will need to play small-ball at times, particularly with a bottom half of the lineup that bats under .200.
Get ahead in the count:
As bad as Boston pitching has been, the pitchers are limiting batters to a batting average of .201 when getting ahead in the count. This compares to a .323 average when the count is even and .336 when batters are ahead.
The Orioles have shown the ability this season to adapt to the weaknesses of pitchers, being aggressive when the situation calls for it and patient when patience is needed.
Go for the long ball:
Boston has won only seven games this season; however, those seven games have one thing in common, pitchers have not given up a single home run in any of those games.
If the Orioles can send a few over the fence, the Boston pitchers tend to fall apart.
What do you think will happen in this series? Let us know in the comments below, and make sure to follow The Baltimore Battery on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram!