Orioles infielder Manny Machado is hitting .378/427/.634 this month. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Red Sox-Orioles series preview

June 23, 2015 - 5:41 am
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Coming off of a series win vs. the Royals and four wins in their last six games, the Red Sox will look to keep their momentum against the team that began Boston's season-high seven-game losing streak earlier this month, the Orioles. The Red Sox sit in the AL East basement at 31-40, 8 1/2 games back of the first-place Rays. When they began their last series with the Orioles on June 9, both teams were fighting to stay out of the division's cellar. The Orioles emerged with a sweep and sent the Red Sox back to Boston, where they dropped their next three contests to the Blue Jays. Since then, the Orioles and Blue Jays have turned their seasons around, closing to within 2 1/2 games of the division lead, while the Red Sox face the immediate challenge of trying to get back to .500. "€œI think we're remaining optimistic about the team,'€" Red Sox assistant GM Mike Hazen said last week on Dennis & Callahan. "€œI think nobody's happy where we'€™re sitting here today. You know, it's unfortunate, and we deserve to be where we are. We haven't played very well on the course of the season." Against the Royals this past weekend, the Red Sox took advantage of a depleted KC starting rotation, as both of their wins in the series came against rotation fill-ins. The Red Sox scored 24 runs against the Royals, their highest three-game series total of the season. As a team in the last seven days, they have slashed .328/.379/.552, good for the best team OPS in baseball over that stretch. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, the Orioles have been just as good lately, clubbing 14 home runs in their last seven games, second only to the Astros' 20. For the season, the Orioles have the fifth-most home runs and score the third-most runs per game in the majors. The O's have the fifth-highest isolated power in baseball and they start six players with an ISO rating above the league average of .147. In their last 10 games, the third-place O's are 7-3. After dropping the first game of a three-game set against the Blue Jays, they come into their series with the Red Sox riding two straight wins. "These last two [games] here were big," Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy said after Sunday's 13-9 win that improved Baltimore's record to 36-33. "Just considering this team over there has been playing so good. This was a big series for us. Two big games." The Orioles offense has remained potent of late, with two games of 13-plus runs in six days, which bodes poorly for the Red Sox. Boston pitching has mustered an abysmal 4.89 team ERA this past week, even higher than its AL-worst 4.46 mark. The Orioles also have struggled to find consistency this year, as they own the fifth-worst walk rate and the eighth-worst starter ERA in the majors. Here are the pitching matchups for the series: Tuesday: Joe Kelly (2-4, 5.32 ERA) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (5-3, 3.27 ERA) Wednesday: Clay Buchholz (4-6, 3.87 ERA) vs. Bud Norris (2-5, 7.57 ERA) Thursday: Eduardo Rodriguez (3-1, 3.13 ERA) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (5-4, 3.33 ERA) WHO'S HOT: RED SOX -- While it took some time to find his footing, Mookie Betts finally is realizing his potential. In his last 15 games, Betts has hit a blistering .476 while notching three home runs, two triples and 30 total bases. The 22-year-old is working on four straight multi-hit games and has struck out just once in the last week. -- Betts' comrade in the Sox outfield, Brock Holt, has been just as hot. In five games since his cycle against the Braves on June 16, Holt has slashed .381/.458/.714 with three doubles, two triples and a stolen base. -- Clay Buchholz and Eduardo Rodriguez combined to hurl 13 1/3 innings of one-run ball last week, as they both earned wins in Red Sox victories over the Braves and Royals, respectively. WHO'S HOT: ORIOLES -- Manny Machado certainly has had a June to remember. This month he has driven in 16 runs and slashed .378/.427/.634. He already has tied his career high for home runs in a season with 14. -- Though normally a platoon player, Travis Snider made his case for more regular playing time against the Blue Jays this past weekend. The lefty clubbed five hits in eight at-bats, including a double and a triple, while scoring twice and driving in one run. -- Darren O'Day also padded his numbers from the Blue Jays series. In the Orioles' two ninth-inning rallies, the submariner was the pitcher of record, giving him two wins and moving his record to 4-0 with an 0.98 ERA for the campaign. WHO'S NOT: RED SOX -- Rusney Castillo has struggled ever since joining the big league club May 22, and his problems do not appear close to being solved. Castillo has not started a game since June 16, and in five appearances since then he has gone 1-for-5 with a strikeout and a ground ball double play. -- Koji Uehara has had trouble keeping opponents off the scoreboard this month, giving up eight runs in seven innings of work. One of his collapses resulted in a loss when he gave up four runs to the Twins on June 4. -- While Mike Napoli has struggled all year long, prompting rumors that the Red Sox will shop him at the trade deadline, he seemingly has worsened of late. In his last 10 games, the slugger has tallied five hits in 38 plate appearances along with nine strikeouts. WHO'S NOT: ORIOLES -- Outside of Snider, the Orioles' normally strong outfield has not struck the ball well lately. In the last week, Jimmy Paredes, David Lough, Adam Jones, Nolan Reimold and Delmon Young have combined to go 13-for-65 with just four extra-base hits and 18 whiffs. -- Young has been especially plagued among the bunch listed above. During the month of June, Young has slashed .191/.188/.213 while logging just 10 total bases and 10 strikeouts. -- Though Bud Norris came out strong in his latest start with six innings and just two runs allowed while enduring a loss to the Phillies on June 18, he has not been able to find his stuff this season. The 30-year-old right-hander is just 2-5 with a 7.57 ERA and a 1.64 WHIP in nine starts on the season.

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