Welcome back to the Weekend Preview!
After a series full of forgettable at-bats and great pitching, the Sox travel north to face a familiar foe: the Baltimore Orioles. One can only hope the Sox’s starters can keep themselves from seven-run detonations like we experienced the week before.
Baltimore Orioles – Current Record: 7-9 – Projected Record: 70-77
The Orioles’ last win was an 8-3 victory last Sunday in Fenway Park. The Red Sox then took Monday’s rain-shortened game, and then Toronto swept them in the mid-week series. Baltimore’s reeling right now, and could use some home remedies at Camden Yards after putting up a -16 run differential since Sunday. PECOTA’s remainder-of-the-season projections only have them scoring 619 runs by the season’s end, so this week could be a omen of what’s to come.
Rick Porcello vs. Miguel Gonzalez, Friday, 7:05 p.m.
This is a rematch of what we saw last Sunday. Porcello had a game to forget – he allowed eight earned runs, five of which came during Porcello’s crash and burn phase in the 5th and 6th innings. For Porcello, grounders haven’t been the issue - it’s what happens when the ball gets hit in the air. Five home runs in 19 innings later, Porcello has a glaring 2.34 HR/9, which is not what you want from a guy who specializes in getting grounders. On top of that, he can’t hold guys on base, as his 63.6% LOB% is egregious. Sure, he’s due for some sort of rebound, but if Porcello keeps giving up homers at anywhere near that rate, it won’t matter. Here’s hoping that sinker stays low.
The last time the Sox faced Gonzalez, they teed off for three runs in the first inning. That’s pretty good! Then they didn’t score for the rest of the game. That’s pretty bad! So far, Gonzalez has had a pretty stellar April so far. A 2.55 ERA, 3.24 FIP, and 20 strikeouts in 17.2 innings has made him look like an ace-in-waiting. However, he’s never struck out batters at this rate before in the majors, and with his peripherals looking generally similar to previous seasons, betting on him to reach 200 strikeouts doesn’t seem like a safe investment. There’s nothing particularly special about him – Gonzalez has a 90 mph heater, and has a two-seamer, slider and a changeup with speeds that you’d expect for each. He’s got a strangely low .265 career BABIP as well, so the Orioles must be working some kind of defensive magic for him.
Justin Masterson vs. Wei-Yin Chen, April 25, 7:05 p.m.
Masterson has sandwiched a terrible start between two good starts. His 9.77 K/9 is great, but that 4.60 BB/9 isn’t something you dream on. The seven-run Nationals disaster skewed a lot of Masterson’s peripherals, but so far he seems effective. A 59.5% ground ball rate and a 2.81 FIP look mighty fine to me, but it’s his velocity that’s still an issue. The fastball velo sits at a shade under 88 mph. That’s somewhat scary, but if he can make his pitches move and keep them down, Masterson can still succeed as a starter.
Chen is a master at stranding runners. Over his career, he’s left 75% of them on base, unable to score. He doesn’t strike out a lot of batters, nor does he walk very many of them. He’s yet another guy who lives on contact, and then lets the Orioles’ defense do the work. This year looks a bit different than the last three, as Chen is walking nearly five batters per nine, and has posted a .195 BABIP. While that makes his ERA a sparkling 3.07, his FIP is a terrible 6.48. It’s up to the Sox to determine if he’s going to rapidly regress.
Wade Miley vs. Bud Norris, April 26, 1:35 p.m.
Miley has made himself known to Sox fans as the dude who works the quickest five innings you’ll ever see – then blow up dramatically in the sixth. He’s got some terrifying stats in 13.1 innings: 6.75 K/9, 6.08 BB/9 and a 6.08 ERA. Like Masterson, he had a horrid start against the Nats as well, giving up seven runs in 2.1 innings. However, there are reasons for optimism here. Miley is still getting a grounder 50% of the time, and a terribly low 61.2% LOB% is sure to come back up. Not only that, but look at the number of innings – it’s only 13.1! There’s plenty of innings to pitch for Miley’s return to normalcy. Will it happen against the Orioles? It could, as long as he can make it past the sixth inning without self-destructing.
Bud Norris has been nothing short of a catastrophe this season. He’s racked up a 17.42 ERA in just 10.1 innings. That’s 20 earned runs. Most of it comes from a 27.5% line drive percentage, and the uncommonly bad .471 BABIP that comes with it. He has yet to even register a pitch in the sixth inning of any game. Toronto has shelled him to the tune of eight or more earned runs in two of his three starts, and even the Yankees got three runs out of him in five innings. He’ll most certainly be better as the season goes on, but for now, the Red Sox can only hope Norris’ April from hell continues.
The Orioles, having lost Jonathan Schoop to injury and Steve Pearce to ineffectiveness, have been shuffling their lineup a lot lately.
Alejandro De Aza – RF – L
Jimmy Paredes – DH – R
Chris Davis – 1B – L
Adam Jones – CF – R
Travis Snider – LF – L
Manny Machado – 3B – R
Ryan Flaherty – 2B – R
Caleb Joseph – C – R
Everth Cabrera – SS – S
The Orioles have a dearth of right-handed hitters, especially with Matt Wieters still out. That doesn’t hold them back at all, however – the Orioles still have the fourth-best TAv in the league, and the second-best in the American League. They’re still a challenge for pitchers, injuries or not.
Both teams are in need of a series victory here. The Orioles haven’t been pitching well, and the Sox haven’t been hitting well. One side’s gotta give. The Red Sox hope it’s their hitting, or they could be in for a very long three-game series away from home.
Photo by Kelly O’Connor, sittingstill.smugmug.com