Coming off their first series loss of the season… actually, they won the series but it feels almost like a loss, the Boston Red Sox start a new one at home against the Baltimore Orioles. With it being a four-gamer against a division opponent, this series will be very important to win. Alec Shirkey of MLB.com stated that “The Orioles got the better of this American League East matchup in 2014, going 11-8 against the Red Sox while recording 10 hits or more in nine of those contests.”
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Ricky Doyle of NESN fielded questions about the Red Sox starting rotation, yesterday, stating, “The fact the initial success came against the lowly Philadelphia Phillies (three games) and the aged New York Yankees (two games) suggests Boston’s strong pitching out of the gate might have been as much a product of the Red Sox’s competition as it was of their own doing.” However, with it being so early on in the season, getting angry with the rotation now is as big of a mistake as thinking their first two series were proof of their invincibility. “It’s hard to imagine the Red Sox backtracking and making rash decisions so quickly,” after making so many changes to the rotation, backing them throughout spring training without a further trade for a supposed ace pitcher.
Series Matchups vs. Orioles @ Fenway Park:
April 17 @ 7:10 PM ET;
April 18 @ 4:05 PM ET;
April 19 @ 1:35 PM ET;
April 20 @ 11:05 AM ET;
With the recent woes, it will be interesting to see how Kelly does against Jimenez. Both pitchers were busted down to the five-spot in their respective rotations, after having issues with control in 2014. Yet, Jimenez was considered one of the top pitchers in Major League Baseball not too long ago, and Kelly was projected to be the same in his days with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Jimenez when seven strong innings against the Toronto Blue Jays, giving up only one hit and a walk with eight strikeouts. Kelly almost matched him, with an extra walk and a run, against the Yankees. If both have found their form, they could be finding themselves moving up in their team’s pitching orders.
Two men enter; one man leaves, maybe, with the victory.
Apr 11, 2015; Bronx, NY, USA; Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Joe Kelly (56) at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Each of the other pitching matchups seems to be fairly equal, making the tilt with Tillman all the more important for the Red Sox, especially Buchholz. Both aces won their first games convincingly, while being destroyed in their second starts. While Tillman likely has felt some heat for that game, it must have been more like a slight sun burn compared to the fires of Hades that Buchholz has felt, recently. With the overwhelming pressure mounting from members of Red Sox Nation and the media, stating that Boston will continue to be bashed if they do not make a trade, Buchholz, the appointed leader of the much belittled rotation, will once again have to summon the strength to pitch incredibly well to turn the heat down a notch.
Orioles Key Players To Watch:
- Center fielder Adam Jones is hot on his own terms, hitting .406 with 4 home runs and 11 RBIs. That’s some offense, considering they lost Nelson Cruz to Seattle.
- Chris Davis, once Baltimore’s home run king, is hitting only .226. He does have a home run, but he is now their king of strikeouts (15). He needs to be a quick out, as he still has threatening power, even if more a wounded lion these days.
- As a team, the Orioles are hitting .270, making them the fourth-best team in the American League, just ahead of the Red Sox (.258). Their lineup may not all hit incredible home runs, but they get on base very well, creating their own offense when the long ball doesn’t work. Once a team depending on home runs, now they are a well-balanced lineup to scare any opposing pitchers, especially a rotation seemingly on the downward slide.
Red Sox Key Players To Watch:
- Even with only five games to his credit, the player most on a tear for hitting is Brock Holt, hitting .533, with 8 hits and 5 RBIs in 15 at-bats. With teams not only bashing their pitchers but also putting their more veteran hitters to sleep early, Holt may be the bolt of energy that reinvigorates the Red Sox offense.
- Shortstop Xander Bogaerts recently had health concerns, but should be in the lineup against the Orioles. Let’s see if he can continue with his trending .447 on-base percentage, which leads the team over other players having more than 6 appearances.
- Left fielder Hanley Ramirez feasted on sub-par pitching to start the season, only to run into a wall of Washington Nationals studs on the mound. In his last three games, Ramirez had only two hits and two RBIs, compared to the seven RBIs in the five games before that. Will the Orioles pitching be enough to keep Han-Ram off the scoreboard?
Predictions (Orioles-1 win Red Sox-3 wins) :
The Red Sox, on paper, should be able to take the series, as long as Kelly wins the opener against Jimenez. If the recent Jimenez start was more a fluke than a forecast, the Red Sox should be able to punish any hanging pitches he provides, like he did last season.
Buchholz, himself, is the only thing keeping him from being an ace. When he has got his head on straight, he has unbeatable stuff, even for Tillman to match. When Buchholz looks like he’s searching for an answer, he, along with Red Sox Nation, is disappointed, every time.
The lineup suggest that the Orioles will get their hits, but shutting down Jones will help to slow down their offense. Other than Davis, who hasn’t looked anything like his All-Star form of a few years ago, there are not too many potent threats, like the Red Sox have in their lineup. The question is: when will the Red Sox start showing their own potential? We’ve seen flashes, but Boston wants to see the flames around opposing pitching, not their own for a change.
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