Orioles prepare for battle with AL East leading Red Sox

In 2017 the Orioles and Red Sox engaged in a season long battle that saw many ugly games and a lot of tension. This weekend, the two AL East teams will meet for the first time in the 2018 season. The only question is, will the tension spill over?

Orioles fans will certainly remember the ongoing antics between the Red Sox pitching staff and Manny Machado after the O’s third baseman injured Dustin Pedroia on a slide into second base early last season. They will also remember the racial slurs that were directed at Adam Jones when the O’s traveled to Boston the following week. There is no question that these were two of the lowest points of 2017 for both teams. Even though the extra circulars faded as the season progressed, the games remained intense and highly entertaining with the Orioles barely taking the season series 10-9.

As these two teams prepare to meet for the first time this season, many wonder if the nonsense of last year will carry over to 2018. I don’t have the answers to that question, but what I do know is that this series will be very important for both teams despite it only being April.

The Red Sox are off to a hot start. They will enter this weekend’s series sitting at the top of the AL East with a 10-2 record. The Orioles, on the other hand, will enter this four game set seeking yet another bounce back performance as they continue to try to get some momentum going in the first month of the season.

It should also be noted that the Orioles are coming off of their only scheduled off day this month while the Red Sox are coming into the weekend fresh off a heated series with the New York Yankees.

On paper this has all the makings of a great series. The Patriots Day festivities will draw a lot of attention on Monday but the first three games should be just as entertaining with a handful of good pitching matchups throughout the series. Sunday’s stands out with both teams top starters, Dylan Bundy and Chris Sale, squaring off.

Game times and pitching matchups:

Game 1: Friday, April 13, 7:10 pm – Chris Tillman (0-2, 8.68 ERA) vs Eduardo Rodriguez (0-0, 7.36 ERA) – MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 2: Saturday, April 14, 1:05 pm – Alex Cobb (2017: 12-10, 3.66 ERA) vs Hector Velazquez (1-0, 3.12 ERA) – MLB Network, MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 3: Sunday, April 15, 1:05 pm – Dylan Bundy (0-1, 1.35 ERA) vs Chris Sale (1-0, 1.06 ERA) – MLB Network, MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Game 4: Monday, April  16, 11:05 am Andrew Cashner (1-1, 2.50 ERA) vs David Price (1-1, 2.40 ERA) – MLB Network, MASN, 105.7 The Fan

Notes on Red Sox:

  • This weekends series in Boston will conclude with the annual Patriots Day game on Monday. The game will start at 11:05 am to coincide with the Boston Marathon and will mark the seventh meeting between the Orioles and Red Sox on the holiday. Boston holds a 4-2 advantage in those games and have also won 12 of their last 17 games on Patriots Day.
  • The Red Sox have started the 2018 season with more than their fair share of divisional matchups. Facing so many familiar opponents in such a short span of time is difficult for any team but Boston has already won eight of their ten games against other AL East teams.
  • Over the past four seasons Mookie Betts has played 63 games against the Baltimore Orioles. He holds a .278 batting average with 12 home runs and 36 RBI’s in his career against the O’s, making him the top threat every time these teams square off.

Notes on Orioles:

  • Chris Tillman will get the start in game one and will be looking for his first win in quite some time. After signing a one-year deal to return to Baltimore this season, Tillman had a lot to prove if he was going to get another chance at the major league level. So far that process has not gone well for the veteran starter. Tillman has not been credited with a win since May 7 of last year and holds a 7.93 ERA since then.
  • Fans will get their first look at Alex Cobb as an Orioles starter this weekend. The Red Sox are a tough lineup to face in your first start of the year but Cobb has seen some good success at Fenway Park in his six major league seasons. The former Tampa Bay Ray holds a 5-1 record with a 3.15 ERA in seven career starts in Boston. Cobb has also only surrendered one home run in 40 career innings at Fenway.

Image credit: Sports Illustrated


Series Recap: Orioles drop fifth straight series with two extra inning losses to Red Sox

The first two games of this series could not have looked any more different on paper yet they both ended in similar fashion. Monday night’s series opener was a slug fest where both the Red Sox and Orioles flexed their offensive muscles and combined to score 18 runs.

The Orioles were able to find success against Doug Fister and take an early 5-0 lead after the third inning. Usually when the O’s put up this many runs it’s because of the long ball, but this time they scored almost all of their runs on quality at bats alone. Everyone in the lineup did a good job of just getting on base allowing three of the five runs to be scored on either a sacrifice fly or a fielder’s choice.

The Red Sox made their comeback and eventually toke the lead in the fifth inning. Jackie Bradley Jr. and Brock Holt got it started by picking up a pair of RBI singles that knocked Dylan Bundy out of the game and brought the Red Sox back to within just two runs of the O’s.

Mookie Betts was the biggest difference maker of the inning though. The 24-year-old outfielder doubled to deep left field and brought all three base runners home, putting Boston up 7-6. Betts now has ten games in his four-year career where he has collected at least four RBI’s. Three of those ten have been against the Orioles.

The Orioles got the lead right back in the bottom half of the fifth when Pedro Alvarez launched a solo homer and Tim Beckham followed with a RBI double. However, with an 8-7 lead the Orioles still couldn’t hold on and Donnie Hart ended up surrendering a game tying homer to Xander Bogaerts.

The game would remain tied until the 11th inning. Facing Miguel Castro, the Red Sox loaded the bases with two outs, bringing Andrew Benintendi to the plate. Benintendi was able to sneak a grounder just past the reach of a diving Jonathan Schoop to score the eventual game winning runs.

After the disappointing loss on Monday the Orioles were just looking to improve their pitching and try to force a rubber match. Even though the pitching definitely improved, the result was still a loss as the O’s came up just short.

Kevin Gausman was excellent in his eight innings of work, allowing just three hits and striking out seven. Drew Pomeranz got the start for Boston and gave up five hits through 6.1 innings. The Red Sox may have needed to tap into their bullpen earlier than the O’s but their relievers were even more effective. Five relief pitchers entered the game for Boston and none of them allowed a hit or walk.

Once again the Red Sox spoiled the Orioles evening by picking up a go ahead run in the top of the eleventh. Brad Brach was entering his second inning of relief and just like Monday’s game, the Red Sox loaded the bases with two outs. Instead of a clutch base hit, the Red Sox were gifted a run when Brach threw a wild pitch.

The O’s certainly had their chances to score on Tuesday. In the third inning Manny Machado picked up a two out double but was cut down at the plate while trying to score. Chris Davis also came close to breaking the shutout in the fifth inning. Davis sent a ball to deep center field that was definitely on its way out but Jackie Bradley Jr. made an amazing leaping grab to prevent another potential O’s run.

After dropping their fifth straight series the Orioles couldn’t get anything going in Wednesdays series finale. The Red Sox struck first in the fourth inning with a pair of two-run homers by Deven Marrero and the Oriole Killer, Mookie Betts.

Hanley Ramirez added two more runs in the fifth with a double to give Boston a 6-0 lead. This hit also drove Wade Miley out of the game after just 4.1 innings of work. Miley now holds a 10.06 ERA in four starts this month.

The O’s offense was nowhere to be found through the first six innings. It looked like they were finally going to get something going in the seventh when Trey Mancini led off with a double but Chris Sale was able to strike out the side and escape the slight jam.

The Red Sox picked up two more runs in the eighth off of Tanner Scott, who was making his MLB debut. Despite clocking in at 100 mph on a few pitches, Scott couldn’t put the Boston batters away. The 23-year-old allowed four base runners and two runs before escaping the inning.

Chris Sale remained in the game for the eighth and proceeded to pick up his 13th strikeout of the game and 300th of the season. Sale becomes the second Red Sox pitcher to accomplish this milestone after Pedro Martinez racked up 313 in 1999.

This was just one of many highlights for the Red Sox as they picked up a 9-0 win and a sweep over their division rivals. The heated matchups between these teams feel like a distant memory at this point as the Orioles failed to play with any ambition and let another team walk over them on their way to the postseason.

The Orioles will play four games against the Rays this weekend for their last home series of the season. As the final week of their 2017 campaign nears, the O’s are also staring at their first losing season since 2011. Baltimore is seven games under .500 with just nine left to play.

Image Credit: Associated Press