Red Sox-Orioles series preview

July 26, 2013 - 8:01 am

The Red Sox will embark on a brief three-game road trip, heading to Baltimore to take on the Orioles for the third time this season. The Red Sox left for Baltimore with a half-game lead in the AL East after dropping two of three against the second-place Rays and having the last game of the series get rained out (it will be made up on Monday). The washout may have been for the best, with the Red Sox scoring only one run in the two losses, as the offense was shut down by Tampa Bay lefties Matt Moore and David Price. The Sox have played .500 ball as of late, splitting a 10-game road trip to finish off the unofficial first half, and taking two of three from the fourth-place Yankees prior to losing the series against the Rays. However, the Red Sox have yet to relinquish first place since having claimed the division lead back on May 27. The bats have been relatively quiet for the American League'€™s best offense over the past few games, but the Sox have gotten three straight quality starts from the rotation, while no starting pitcher has given up more than four earned runs since Allen Webster gave up seven back on July 9 in Seattle. With the rainout complicating the pitching rotation, the Red Sox will opt to keep four of five starters on their normal schedule, with Brandon Workman shifting to Tuesday and Felix Doubront getting the start in the makeup game on Monday. The Orioles have gotten the better of the Red Sox the seven times the two teams have met so far this year, with Baltimore taking five of those contests, including taking two of three the last time the Red Sox visited Camden Yards, back in mid-June. The Orioles have already made some moves in preparation for a run at the division, adding a starting pitcher in Scott Feldman, as well as acquiring right-handed reliever Francisco Rodriguez from the Brewers. After beginning the second half with a five-game win streak (four wins in a row plus a win in the last game before the All-Star break), the Orioles have dropped their last three and now sit four games behind the Red Sox in the division, with a 2½-game lead over the Yankees. Like the Red Sox, the Orioles are a better home team than road team, winning 29 of 49 in Baltimore as compared to a 28-26 record on the road. Here are the pitching matchup for the three-game weekend series. Friday: John Lackey (7-7, 2.95) vs. Chris Tillman (12-3, 3.84) Saturday: Ryan Dempster (5-8, 4.28) vs. Scott Feldman (2-1, 4.73) Sunday: Jon Lester (9-6, 4.50) vs. Jason Hammel (7-7, 5.20) WHO'S HOT: RED SOX '€¢ Mike Napoli has looked something like April'€™s version of Napoli the past few days, which is very good news for the Red Sox. The first baseman put a lot of good swings on the ball during the six-game homestand, going 7-for-18 with three home runs and two doubles while driving in five runs. Over his last eight games dating back to before the break, Napoli is batting .407/.448/.926. On the season, Napoli is batting .266/.349/.477 on the year, leading the team in doubles with 26 and ranking second in home runs with 14. '€¢ Since taking over the closer'€™s role, Koji Uehara has been incredibly impressive, and his most recent outings have been absolutely dominant. In his last seven games (eight innings), Uehara has allowed no runs, no walks and only two hits while striking out 12 batters and recording four saves. The 38-year-old'€™s numbers on the season are equally remarkable, with a 1.59 ERA and 0.728 WHIP (second among relievers with more than 30 innings pitched), while he's walked only eight (two were intentional) while striking out 65 batters. Uehara has notched nine saves since taking over ninth-inning duties. '€¢ Drake Britton made his major league debut over the homestand, and it was in a rather pressure-filled spot, facing names like Ichiro Suzuki and Robinson Cano in the ninth inning of a close game, albeit one the Red Sox were losing. His second appearance, and his first-ever time pitching on back-to-back days, was in an even bigger spot: the 10th inning of a game against the Yankees, facing the heart of the order. In all three of his big league appearances to date, Britton has looked like he knows what he'€™s doing at this level. He has yet to allow a run while giving up two hits and a walk in his three innings. With Andrew Miller out for the season and Franklin Morales on the disabled list, it would be a big boost for the club if Britton can continue to be a reliable lefty arm out of the bullpen. WHO'S HOT: ORIOLES '€¢ Catcher Matt Wieters had a slow start to the season but has definitely picked up the production as of late. Over his last 10 games, Wieters is batting .410/.452/.610 with two home runs and two doubles, and has recorded five straight multi-hit games, going 12-for-25 to kick off the second half. Wieters has raised his line to .250/.307/.438 through 94 games this season. Wieters has contributed not only at the plate, but behind it as well, playing excellent defense and throwing out 44 percent of runners, well above the league average, while allowing only four passed balls. '€¢ Rookie Henry Urrutia has only played six games for the Orioles, but he'€™s been making an impression over those six games. Urrutia, a 26-year-old who has served as the DH, is batting .350 with two RBI in his first major league games, recording his first extra-base hit, a triple, on Thursday. Urrutia forced his way into the big-league lineup by hitting .365/.427/.531 between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk this season. Urrutia provides a solid option for the Orioles, who have gotten just a .201/.260/.376 line out of the DH position this season. '€¢ The oft-injured Brian Roberts returned to the lineup at the end of June, and as of late, has been pretty productive. The second baseman is 8-for-22 in seven games since the break, and is hitting .357/.406/.500 with four doubles and six RBIs in his last nine games. The 35-year-old is batting .269/.314/.410 in 24 games this season. WHO'S NOT: RED SOX '€¢ It'€™s been a busy few days for Dustin Pedroia. The second baseman inked an eight-year, $110 million deal with the Red Sox, a pact that keeps him in Boston through the 2021 season. But in the midst of all the excitement, Pedroia'€™s endured a but of a slump. He went 2-for-23 without an extra-base hit or a walk in the six-game homestand. The cold stretch is unusual for Pedroia, who is still batting .303/.381/.416 in 102 games this season. '€¢ It was bound to happen, but Jose Iglesias has come back down to earth after an incredible start to the season. The shortstop went 3-for-21 on the homestand with five strikeouts, and is batting just .173/.200/.173 in his last 14 contests. Iglesias, who has 10 doubles, two triples and even a home run to his credit this season, has gone 16 straight games without notching an extra-base hit. His line still looks impressive -- .343/.391/.428 through 58 games -- but less impressive considering Iglesias was batting .434 with a .484 OBP a month ago. '€¢ Outfielder Daniel Nava has been cold at the dish recently, and has seen his playing time diminish slightly, at least over the course of the last homestand. Out of those six games, Nava started only twice and relieved Shane Victorino in the fourth inning of another. In the three contests, Nava went 2-for-9. Over his last nine games, he'€™s hitting .206, but the outfielder always finds a way to get on base, even when he'€™s not hitting. In those nine games, Nava has walked twice but has been hit by a pitch four times, bringing his total to 11 on the season, which is good for second in the American League. Through 90 games this year, Nava is batting .287/.372/.427, but his last multi-hit game was all the way back on July 8. WHO'S NOT: ORIOLES '€¢ Chris Davis had a monster first half for the Orioles, crushing a league-leading 37 home runs and driving in 93 in 95 games while batting .315/.392/.717. But in seven games since the break, Davis has yet to launch a home run, going 6-for-28 with three doubles on the Orioles'€™ road trip to open up the second half, striking out 13 times in 31 plate appearances. For Davis, seven games stands as his second-longest home run drought this season, while eight games represents the longest stretch without a home run. Davis is batting .307 with a .382 OBP and a league-best .687 slugging mark. '€¢ All-Star Manny Machado also has gotten off to a slow start in the second half, going 5-for-29 on the road trip. Machado'€™s slump dates back to before the break, and he'€™s hitting .167/.186/.238 with just one extra-base hit and three RBIs in his last 10 games. Despite the cold streak, the third baseman has been incredibly impressive in his sophomore season, batting .301/.328/.457 with eight home runs, three triples and a majors-leading 39 doubles through 103 games. '€¢ It hasn'€™t been a particularly good month for Hammel, who has posted a 5.63 ERA in 24 innings in July. In his last two starts, the righty has allowed a total of 20 hits and nine earned runs in 12 innings. Hammel has been disappointing all season for Baltimore, compiling a 5.20 ERA and 1.487 WHIP in 20 starts, walking 41 while striking out 82 batters.