Orioles closer Zach Britton has converted his last 10 save opportunities and carries a 1.96 ERA on the season. (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Red Sox-Orioles series preview

June 09, 2015 - 5:26 am
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Coming off of their first series sweep of the season over the Athletics, the Red Sox will carry their momentum to Baltimore for a three-game set with the Orioles. With a 5-2 record, the Red Sox have had a stellar opening to June after a miserable May. They sit at 27-31, sandwiched between the Orioles and the Blue Jays in fourth place in the underwhelming AL East. Despite their losing mark, the Red Sox are just 5 1/2 games back of the first-place Yankees. Though not the best measure of success, the Red Sox had the best series of their season against the cellar-dwelling Athletics this past weekend. Wade Miley and Joe Kelly each turned in quality starts that resulted in wins. Meanwhile, the bullpen was lights out, allowing just one earned run in nine innings of work. Then the Red Sox bats came alive Sunday, scoring seven runs in the eighth-inning to rally for a 7-4 victory. The Red Sox have been unable to sustain momentum this season, but they have a great opportunity this week to string together some wins against an Orioles team that is 4-6 in its last 10 and sits in last place in the AL East. The O's are coming off of a series win against the Indians but dropped three out of four against the Astros to open June. Though they hold a narrow edge over the Red Sox with a 4-3 record in seven meetings this season, the O's will face a much-improved Red Sox rotation this week. Similar to the Red Sox, the Orioles' major problem is their underperforming rotation, which ranks 23rd in the majors with a 4.16 FIP, worse than the Red Sox' 4.11 mark. Baltimore pitching has fallen victim to the long ball this season, as the O's give up 1.1 home runs per nine innings, the fourth-worst mark in the majors. The Orioles also struggle to keep runners off base, as they allow 3.2 free passes per nine innings. This walk rate plus home run prevention problems adds up to a team prone to giving up runs in bunches. Though their offense has fallen short compared to recent seasons, the Orioles still have the characteristic big boppers that helped them to a 96-66 record last season. Led by Chris Davis, of 53 home run fame in 2013, the O's own the seventh-best isolated power offense in the majors. Three of their regulars have hit nine home runs this season: Davis (12), Manny Machado (9) and Adam Jones (9). Depsite the O's potent bats, manager Buck Showalter has not seen the consistency his offense has displayed in recent seasons. "We've had some periods where we swung the bats well and scored some runs," Showalter said after a 7-3 win over the Indians on Sunday. "We just haven't been very consistent at all. I'd like to see us find our step with that. And that's the challenge ahead of you, deciding if it's going to get better. And if it isn't, then you need to make some adjustments." Here are the pitching matchups for the series: Tuesday: Eduardo Rodriguez (2-0, 0.61 ERA) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (5-4, 3.54 ERA) Wednesday: Rick Porcello (4-5, 5.01 ERA) vs. Wei-Yin Chen (1-4, 3.18 ERA) Thursday: Wade Miley (5-5, 4.67 ERA) vs. Chris Tillman (3-7, 5.61 ERA) WHO'S HOT: RED SOX -- Second baseman Dustin Pedroia has had an absolutely blistering month of hitting. In his last 28 games, Pedey has mashed a .355 average with three home runs, eight RBIs and five doubles, good for a .355/.391/.486 slash line. Pedroia showed no signs of slowing down against the A's, as he went 6-for-12 in the series sweep. -- Eduardo Rodriguez continues to be the talk of Red Sox Nation, and for good reason. The 22-year-old is 2-0 with a 0.61 ERA through two major league starts. The most impressive statistic? Rodriguez has allowed just five hits in 14 2/3 innings of work. -- Hanley Ramirez has remained a much-maligned figure in the Red Sox organization since his $88 million signing this offseason. Defense aside, the left fielder has been tearing the cover off the ball in his last 14 games. Ramirez has three home runs and nine RBIs combining for a 147 OPS+ over this stretch. WHO'S HOT: ORIOLES -- After slumping in May, Adam Jones has embraced June. The center fielder and perennial All-Star has slashed .400/.400/.960 in his last seven games. These massive figures are due in large part to his three home runs and two doubles over this stretch. -- Though his 0-1 record does not support him, Miguel Gonzalez has pitched near perfect in his last two outings. Over 14 2/3 innings pitched, the right-hander has scattered seven hits and punched out 14. -- A former starter, closer Zach Britton has established himself as one of the premier stoppers in the majors. In 23 appearances this season, the young right-hander owns a 1.96 ERA and has converted his last 10 save opportunities. WHO'S NOT: RED SOX -- The catching duo of Sandy Leon and Blake Swihart continues to appear unsustainable. In their last seven contests, the two backstops are a combined 3-for-23 with five strikeouts and one RBI. -- David Ortiz was unable to break his slump against the Athletics, as the big lefty went 1-for-11 in the series. In his last 14 contests, Ortiz is slashing .211/.244/.342. -- Rick Porcello's last three starts were not what the Red Sox had in mind when they signed the right-hander to an $82.5 million extension during spring training. In his last three outings, Porcello has tossed 19 1/3 innings, giving up 15 runs and three dingers, earning him an 0-3 record. WHO'S NOT: ORIOLES -- Chris Tillman has long been the beneficiary of good defense behind him, but his mediocre FIP has finally come to call. In his last five starts, Tillman sports a 4.88 ERA and a 1.55 WHIP, giving him a 1-3 record. -- After a stat-packing May, Jimmy Paredes has begun his slow descent back to Earth. In his last seven, the utility man is slashing .188/.188/.188 with six strikeouts and no extra-base hits. -- Following a long DL stint to begin the year, J.J. Hardy has been rudely greeted by major league pitching. The veteran shortstop is hitting .189 this season with 21 strikeouts and just three extra-base hits. In his last 14 games, Hardy is 7-for-37 with more double play balls than home runs, doubles and triples.

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