Adam Jones is tied for first in the American League with 11 RBIs. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Red Sox-Orioles series preview

April 17, 2015 - 8:22 am
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The Red Sox continue their homestand with a four-game set against the Orioles starting Friday. Boston has started the year having won its first three series for the first time in the designated hitter era. They have taken two of three games from the Phillies, Yankees and Nationals to start the season. The first time through the rotation for the Sox was a pleasant surprise for fans as each starter recorded a quality start and looked good on the mound. In four games since then, however, the starting pitching has left a lot to be desired. Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson and Wade Miley combined for just 10 1/3 innings in their second starts, while Rick Porcello provided the lone bright spot with his eight-inning victory. As a whole, Boston's pitching could do with some improvement. It is ranked 28th in the league with a 4.75 ERA and 29th in runs allowed with 50. The offense has made up for the inconsistent pitching with 56 runs and 54 RBIs, both of which are best in baseball. The Red Sox offense also is in the top 10 in hits (89), triples (2), home runs (11), steals (7), average (.253), walks (41) and on-base percentage (.340). It has scored at least five runs in all but two of its first nine games, and has not lost when scoring more than five runs. The Red Sox went 8-11 against Baltimore in 2014. Nine games into 2015, the Orioles are 5-4, tied for second at one game behind Boston. This series will mark the fourth straight against AL East teams for Baltimore, which took two of three games from the Rays, one of three from the Blue Jays, and two of three from the Yankees to start the season. The Orioles find themselves in a similar position to the Red Sox. Their offense has been winning games for them, while their pitching has been inconsistent. Baltimore leads the league in home runs with 15, is sixth with 47 runs, and seventh in average at .270. The O's have only been held below five runs twice, once being a shutout at the hands of Tampa Bay. The pitching staff, on the other hand, holds a 26th-ranked ERA of 4.61 and has allowed the eighth-most home runs (10). In the Orioles' four losses this year, opponents have scored a combined 30 runs while only putting up 16 total runs in games that Baltimore has won. Baltimore outfielder Adam Jones is tied for first in the American League with 11 RBIs and tied for second with four home runs. O's starting catcher Matt Wieters is recovering from 2014 Tommy John surgery and is out indefinitely. Shortstop J.J. Hardy, third baseman Jimmy Paredes and reliever Wesley Wright are also on the DL. Here are the pitching matchups for the series: Joe Kelly (1-0, 1.29) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (1-0, 0.00) Clay Buchholz (1-1, 7.84) vs. Chris Tillman (1-1, 3.86) Rick Porcello (1-1, 3.86) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (1-1, 1.42) Justin Masterson (1-0, 7.59) vs. Wei-Yin Chen (0-0, 4.35) WHO'S HOT: RED SOX -- Xander Bogaerts seems to have turned a corner since posting underwhelming numbers at the plate for most of last season. The move back to shortstop may have helped with his confidence, but whatever the reason, the 22-year-old has been the most consistent Sox hitter with a .382 average, a .447 on-base percentage and a .471 slugging percentage. He missed a game with a knee injury early this week but was back in the lineup the next night. -- Dustin Pedroia hit two home runs in the first game of the season and added another off Stephen Strasburg on Tuesday. He has hits in six of his first nine games and already has four multi-hit games. -- Pablo Sandoval has started the year with a .306 average and has reached base safely in all but two of his eight games. All of the switch hitter's success has come from the left side of the plate. He is 0-for-12 with five strikeouts as a righty and 11-for-24 with two walks and a strikeout as a lefty. WHO'S HOT: ORIOLES -- Adam Jones has four home runs and 11 RBIs and has also slashed a .406/.459/.844 to start the year. The 29-year-old center fielder has been batting third for the O's. -- Miguel Gonzalez, who will start the third game of the series, is 1-1 with a 1.42 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP and 15 strikeouts in his first two starts. The Orioles were shut out in his loss. -- Caleb Joseph, who was filled in for Wieters behind the plate, is 9-for-24 with two doubles, a triple and two RBIs in seven games played. WHO'S NOT: RED SOX -- Catcher Ryan Hanigan was not expected to be a force on offense, but his start has left room for improvement. He has worked seven walks but is just 2-for-19 in seven games played. -- Allen Craig has only gotten 12 at-bats but is just 1-for-12 with a walk. Unless his bat heats up, Craig likely will continue to see minimal playing time in a crowded outfield. -- Right fielder Shane Victorino has hits in only two games and is 3-for-23. He has not been given starts every day to begin the year and will have to heat up in order to appear in the lineup more consistently. WHO'S NOT: ORIOLES -- Left fielder Steve Pearce is 5-for-31 for a .161 average. He hit a home run in each of the first two games of the season but has just one hit and no RBIs since then. -- First baseman Chris Davis is 7-for-31 with a home run. The O's would like to see his bat heat up, as the power hitter has just one home run and has grounded out at an unusually high rate. His 2015 ground out to air out ratio is 1.25, while his career average in that category is 0.97. -- Chris Tillman, whom the Red Sox will see on Saturday, is 1-1 in two starts. His first outing was very good, but he made it through just 2 2/3 innings against Toronto in his second start. He holds a 7.71 ERA, a 1.82 WHIP and a .314 batting average against. The 27-year-old has struck out just five batters while walking six.

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