The Boston Red Sox head to Baltimore for a showdown with the Orioles for the top spot in the tightly contested AL East.
The Boston Red Sox (30-20) take on the Baltimore Orioles (28-20) in a four-game set with the division lead on the line.
The road trip got off to a rocky start in Toronto, where the Red Sox dropped a pair of heart breakers to open the series before salvaging it with an extra-innings win on Sunday. Despite their recent stumbles, Boston has managed to hang on to a slim lead in the division thanks to the Orioles scuffling through a slide of their own.
Baltimore has dropped 5 of their last 7 games. While they did manage to take two out of three in Cleveland over the weekend, that came on the heels of being swept in Houston.
Neither team is playing their best baseball right now, but the team that rights the ship first will have a chance to distance themselves from the competition.
- David Ortiz returns to the Red Sox lineup after missing a game due to soreness that was the result of taking a pitch off his foot. The 40-year old enters the series leading the AL in OBP (.420), SLG (.720), doubles (23), extra-base hits (37) and RBI (46).
- Eduardo Rodriguez makes his long awaited season debut on Tuesday. The promising young lefty injured his knee shagging fly balls during spring training. It was originally expected to be only a minor ailment that would sideline him for the first few weeks of the season, but a setback delayed his timetable by about a month.
- Brock Holt‘s return from the 7-day concussion DL is on the horizon, but he may not come back as the everyday left fielder. The team has considered shifting him back to the super-utility role that he thrived in last year.
- Clay Buchholz picked up the win as a reliever on Sunday after pitching a scoreless 10th inning. He earned only two wins in 10 starts this season.
- You get the feeling that Boston’s bullpen is struggling, but that may be the effect of recency bias from a couple of late-inning lets downs on this road trip. The Red Sox bullpen still ranks 4th in the league with a collective 3.34 ERA. They aren’t quite in the elite territory that the Orioles are in (2nd in AL with 2.50 ERA), but the Red Sox bullpen is comfortably above-average.
- Baltimore has fallen to middle of the pack in runs scored, but that is in part due to playing a game or two less than most teams in the league. They remain a dangerous offense, ranking second in the league with a .767 OPS. The Red Sox are first in that category, as well as most offensive categories, with an .842 OPS.
Red Sox: Xander Bogaerts
2016: .351/.401/.514, 6 HR, 28 RBI
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It would not be a stretch to consider the 23-year old Bogaerts as the best shortstop in baseball. He leads the position in almost every offensive category and he’s second in the AL among shortstops with a .989 fielding percentage.
Bogaerts is tied for the league lead in batting average and ranks 6th in the league with a 2.6 WAR. He’s showing a bit more pop in his bat this season, ranking 4th in the league with 16 doubles and on pace to easily surpass his career high in home runs.
Orioles: Manny Machado
Baltimore has their own young stud infielder, so any debate about the best shortstop in the game may depend on what position you consider Machado at. He’s a natural shortstop that has played the bulk of his carer at third base, but this season he’s split time between the two positions almost evenly.
Machado is second in the league with a 1.018 OPS and first with a 3.3 WAR. He’s on pace to set new career highs in almost every offensive category, which is quite impressive for a guy that finished 4th in MVP voting last season.
The one area he has slipped this year is on the base paths. Speed wasn’t a big part of his game in his first few seasons, but last year he surprised many by swiping 20 bases. This year he has yet to steal a base and has been caught on all three attempts.