Photo: Samara Pearlstein

After losing both of their final home games, the tied-for-last Boston Red Sox (69-87, 21 games back in the AL East) travel to Camden Yards for their penultimate series of the year against the Baltimore Orioles (89-67, 1 game back in the AL East, leading the AL Wild Card by 2 games). The Orioles won their last game, while the Red Sox have lost two in a row.

STARTING PITCHERS: Chris Tillman, Steve Johnson and TBA

Chris Tillman (versus Aaron Cook in the opener) is one of the reasons that the Orioles are on the verge of clinching a playoff spot this season. Owner of a 3.08 ERA/4.10 FIP/4.30 xFIP pitching triple slash line, Tillman improved his ERA by an astounding 2.5 runs per 9 and his xFIP by .5 runs per 9, but interestingly his FIP went up slightly (from 3.99). If you were paying attention, you may have seen this coming. Tillman’s 2011 BABIP was an extremely unlucky .346, so he was due for some good luck. A .300 BABIP is considered neutral, but Tillman blew by that this season, currently sporting a very lucky .244 BABIP for the season. So the real Tillman is probably somewhere in the middle of his 2011 and 2012 seasons.

Steve Johnson (against Felix Doubront) has been awesome for the Orioles since being called up on August 3. Whether in the bullpen or as a spot starter, Johnson has put up some impressive numbers. Johnson has logged a 1.62 ERA/3.05 FIP/3.46 xFIP triple slash pitching line in his short time in the majors. Notably, Johnson’s left on base rate is an astounding 94.0%, but that is most likely a product of his relief work. Just as astounding, Johnson’s ground ball rate is an ugly 22.5%, but he’s surrendered only three homers in 33.1 innings pitched, resulting in an acceptable 8.3% homers per fly ball. Johnson’s walk rate is a touch high at 4.05 per nine, but he offsets that by striking out 11.61 batters per nine. Swing upward, Sox!

TBA (versus Zach Stewart in the finale), as always, kind of sucks.

EXPECTED LINEUP

1. Nate McLouth, LF
2. J.J. Hardy, SS
3. Chris Davis, RF
4. Adam Jones, CF
5. Matt Wieters, C
6. Jim Thome, DH
7. Mark Reynolds, 1B
8. Ryan Flaherty, 2B
9. Manny Machado, 3B

WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT

In the last two weeks, the hot Orioles at the bat have been Ryan Flaherty (.357/.438/.786, .501 wOBA, 224 wRC+), Adam Jones (.356/.397/.627, .431 wOBA, 175 wRC+), Matt Wieters (.311/.404/.600, .415 wOBA, 164 wRC+), Chris Davis (.326/.404/.587, .411 wOBA, 162 wRC+) and Nate McLouth (.276/.354/.500, .376 wOBA, 137 wRC+). The cold Birds have been Robert Andino (.194/.286/.258, .259 wOBA, 56 wRC+), J.J. Hardy (.246/.270/.262, .237 wOBA, 41 wRC+) and Endy Chavez (.206/.229/.235, .206 wOBA, 20 wRC+).

The Orioles have excelled in the bullpen this season. Led by closer Jim Johnson (2.60 ERA/3.26 FIP/3.58 xFIP), the Orioles have also gotten great contributions from Darren O’Day (2.35 ERA/3.03 FIP/3.43 xFIP), Pedro Strop (2.33 ERA/3.57 FIP/3.97 xFIP), Troy Patton (2.50 ERA/3.26 FIP/3.35 xFIP), Luis Ayala (2.68 ERA/3.72 FIP/4.01 xFIP), Brian Matusz (1.50 ERA/1.94 FIP/1.96 xFIP) and Matt Lindstrom (2.72 ERA/3.49 FIP/4.03 xFIP). Gotta get to the starters if you want to win against the Orioles.

INJURIES

1B Nick Johnson (right wrist), RF Nick Markakis (recovery from September 2012 thumb surgery), LF Nolan Reimold (bulging disc in neck), 2B Brian Roberts (right hip), LHP Tsuyoshi Wada (recovery from May 2012 Tommy John surgery) and LHP Randy Wolf (torn UCL in left elbow) are out for the season. RHP Stuart Pomeranz (left oblique strain, sore back) is on the 60-day DL. 3B Wilson Betemit (right wrist) is likely out for the remainder of the season. OF Lew Ford (groin) and RHP Jason Hammel (right knee) are day-to-day.

AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?

The Red Sox are going home with their tails between their legs instead of being carried out on their shields. The only two Red Sox players that make my criteria for hot hitters (over 125 wRC+) are Jacoby Ellsbury (.385/.467/.500, .400 wOBA, 150 wRC+) and Mauro Gomez (.304/.333/.478, .344 wOBA, 112 wRC+), and I stretched a little to include Gomez. Everyone other hitter on the club has a below 75 wRC+ in the last two weeks.

As for the pitchers, Felix Doubront (2.77 ERA/2.26 FIP/3.61 xFIP) and Clay Buchholz (2.25 ERA/3.71 FIP/4.60 xFIP) have pitched very well in the last two weeks. In the bullpen, Craig Breslow (0.00 ERA/1.36 FIP/2.09 xFIP), Rich Hill (0.00 ERA/-1.89 FIP/0.31 xFIP), Scott Atchison (0.00 ERA/2.25 FIP/2.88 xFIP) and Andrew Miller (0.00 ERA/10.11 FIP/11.57 xFIP) shared the Blutarsky ERA Award, although Miller rode his luck hard and put it away wet. Junichi Tazawa (1.69 ERA/0.86 FIP/1.68 xFIP) and Mark Melancon (2.08 ERA/-0.35 FIP/-0.35 xFIP) also excelled.

SUMMARY

Will the Red Sox even show up for this series? Baltimore will, that’s for sure.

Categories: Aaron Cook Adam Jones Andrew Miller Baltimore Orioles Boston Red Sox Brian Matusz Brian Roberts Chris Davis Chris Tillman Clay Buchholz Craig Breslow Darren O'Day Endy Chavez Felix Doubront J.J. Hardy Jacoby Ellsbury Jason Hammel Jim Johnson Jim Thome Junichi Tazawa Lew Ford Luis Ayala Manny Machado Mark Melancon Mark Reynolds Matt Lindstrom Matt Wieters Mauro Gomez Nate McLouth Nick Johnson Nick Markakis Nolan Reimold Pedro Strop Randy Wolf Rich Hill Robert Andino Ryan Flaherty Scott Atchison Steve Johnson Stuart Pomeranz Troy Patton Tsuyoshi Wada Wilson Betemit Zach Stewart

Scott Candage is a long-time Red Sox fan. He recently came in third in the 127th annual Upperclass Twit of the Year competition. His best friend is a tree and he is a stockbroker in his spare time.

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