Red Sox need a dominating sweep against Baltimore Orioles
By Sean Penney
The Boston Red Sox have a prime opportunity to make up ground in the Wild Card race if they can sweep the Baltimore Orioles this weekend.
Simply winning the series isn’t good enough. Not when you’re at home against a team as bad as the Baltimore Orioles. The Boston Red Sox need a sweep.
Boston is coming off an encouraging series in which they took two out of three in Cleveland. Winning a road series against a red-hot Indians club sends a message that this team can compete against playoff-caliber opponents. Taking two out of three at Fenway against the worst team in baseball would be a disappointment. The Red Sox need to go three-for-three.
Baltimore’s .322 winning percentage ranks next to last in the majors and they are dead last with a -243 run differential. Their pitching staff is easily the worst in the majors with a collective 5.91 ERA and they have coughed up a staggering 250 home runs already. This isn’t just a bad team, they barely qualify as a major league team.
How have the New York Yankees built up a commanding lead in the AL East? Their dominance over the O’s provides a partial explanation. The Bronx Bombers went 17-2 against Baltimore this season, matching the best record any team has posted against a division opponent since teams started playing 19 intradivisional games in 2001.
New York averaged 7.95 runs per game in the season series and outscored Baltimore by 68 runs, their largest run differential against an opponent since 1956. Their 61 home runs shattered the record for the most homers against one team in a single season. The 151 runs the Yankees piled up in those 19 games is the second-highest total for one team against an opponent in the divisional era.
These impressive accomplishments highlight the strength of a deep Yankees lineup but the Red Sox offense is just as dangerous. New York is done toying with Baltimore this year, now it’s Boston’s turn.
The Red Sox should be able to inflict similar damage on the woeful Orioles but they haven’t taken advantage of their overmatched opponent nearly as much as expected. Boston is only 8-5 against Baltimore this season with a +9 run differential. They needed extra innings to secure two of those wins and the Red Sox actually lost two out of three in their last visit to Baltimore.
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New York has had the benefit of six additional games against the O’s and they’ve taken advantage with historical dominance. They didn’t simply beat Baltimore, they destroyed them. Boston needs to take that same mentality into this series. They can’t underestimate them just because they know they should beat this team. It’s time to press the pedal to the metal. The Red Sox should crush this team that has already mailed it in on their way to a second consecutive 100+ loss season.
Boston isn’t catching New York in the AL East but the Yankees could do them a favor by taking at least a game or two from Cleveland this weekend. The Tribe blasted the Yankees with a 19-run explosion last night but New York will battle back to do some damage of their own. Meanwhile, the Oakland A’s are hosting a Houston Astros team that own’s the league’s second-best record.
Unfortunately, the Tampa Bay Rays get to beat up on Detroit this weekend. We can’t count on gaining much ground on the Rays. That’s still two other teams the Red Sox are trying to catch in the Wild Card race with difficult matchups. If Cleveland and Oakland both drop a couple of games to their superior opponents, Boston can trim their deficit in the standings.
But only if they take care of business themselves against Baltimore. Staying even or picking up only one game on the team’s they are fighting with for Wild Card spots doesn’t move the needle enough. The Red Sox need to cut multiple games off the lead from at least one of the teams ahead of them. The only chance they have of making it happen is to sweep the Orioles.