All it took for the Red Sox to escape Philadelphia with a series win was a piece of Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s left ear, Ryan Sweeney’s neck, and Carl Crawford’s glove. But they did. The Sox are rolling, capturing victories in eight of their last ten contests. Now they head by train to Baltimore, where they will square off with the first place Baltimore Orioles (insert the “that’s not a typo” joke here) in a three game set.

Starting Pitchers- Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, and Jake Arrieta

Tommy Hunter (against Clay Buchholz on Monday night) is having a pretty typical Tommy Hunter year (4.78 ERA, close to his career mark of 4.54, .273 BABIP with a career .280 average). Although his 5.52 FIP leads one to believe that he’s due for a bit of regression. He’s given up an unordinary amount of home runs this year, but that’s mostly unlucky, 18.9% of the flyballs he’s allowed have left the yard, far above his 11.7% HR/FB percentage. He’s been using his curveball only 11.5%, a drastic step down using 20.2% of the time two years ago, and 14.1% of the time last year. With Buchholz on the mound against him, expect a slugfest.

Brian Matusz (against Felix Doubront on Tuesday night), the once hyped prospect, is pitching better than he did last year, but that’s not saying too much, his 5.36 mark is nearly half of the 10.69 ERA he finished with last year. That being said, Matusz’s FIP is nearly a run lower (4.37) than his ERA. Add in a .340 BABIP, and it’s an easy assumption that his luck is going to change shortly. His HR/FB rate was an absurd 20.0% last year, and that’s down to 7.6%, explaining much of his better performance. He’s using his slider more than ever (19.0% compared to 8.3% of the time last year). Consequently, he’s using his curveball and changeup a bit less. Matusz may never be the ace that many predicted he would be, but he’s a better pitcher than his numbers show this year.

Jake Arrieta (facing Daniel Bard on Wednesday night), is another pitcher whose hype has exceeded his actual performance at the major league level. He’s posting a 4.72 ERA right now, but upon closer examination, he’s pitching much better than that. His FIP is 3.76, and perhaps even more encouraging, his xFIP is 3.30. He may have a 2-4 record, but he probably deserves better. Arrieta is walking batters at a much lower rate this year, dropping his BB% from 11.3% last year to 5.7% this year.

Expected Lineup

1. Xavier Avery, LF
2. JJ Hardy, SS
3. Nick Markakis, RF
4. Adam Jones, CF
5. Matt Wieters, C
6. Wilson Betemit, 3B
7. Chris Davis, 1B
8. Nick Johnson, DH
9. Robert Andino, 2B

Who’s Hot/Who’s Not
Adam Jones is hitting .387 over the last seven days with four homers and eight RBI’s. Rookie Xavier Avery is hitting .357 over the last seven days with a triple and three doubles, along with .438 OBP. Three Oriole relievers, Kevin Gregg, Pedro Stropp, and Stu Pomeranz all have not allowed a run in the month of May. Matt Wieters got off to a fast start to the season, but he’s only hitting .208 in the month of May. Robert Andino is also only hitting .216 this month.


Mark Reynolds is on the 15 day disabled list with a strained oblique. Not that the team is really missing him, he was batting a cool .191 with two home runs. Reliever Matt Lindstrom is also on the 15 day disabled list with an injured finger, but he figures to be back soon. Last but not least, highly touted pitcher Zach Britton is also on the disabled list, with an injured shoulder, but he is making his third extended spring training start on Monday, meaning he will join the team soon.

And What About The Red Sox?

Well, they’re doing quite alright. Winners of eight of ten, this series is going to be a big litmus test for them. They figure to get outfielders Ryan Sweeney and Cody Ross, both whom missed the final game of the Philadelphia series. Mike Aviles is red hot, homering in the past three games. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is also swinging a hot bat, hitting .421 over the last seven days with two home runs and three doubles.

In Summary

It’s hard to call any series in May a big one, but there’s no question the Sox would love to take at least two of three from the first place O’s, they’ve been playing well, but it means nothing if they get swept. The Orioles look like they might be for real, and beating up on them isn’t going to be as easy as it has been in years past, but it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible.