After splitting a series in St. Petersburg, the Boston Red Sox (66-83, 19 games back in the AL East) return to Fenway Park for their last home stand of the season for a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles (85-64, 1 game back in the AL East, 4.5 games ahead in the AL Wild Card race). The Orioles are 7.3 in their last 10 games and have won four in a row, while the Red Sox are 5-5 in their last 10 games and have lost their last two games.
STARTING PITCHERS: Miguel Gonzalez, TBA and Chris Tillman
Miguel Gonzalez (against Jon Lester in Friday night’s opener) has had a decent season in his rookie year but isn’t anything to write home about. The former Red Sox and Angels farmhand has compiled a 3.57 ERA/4.65 FIP/4.75 xFIP in 15 appearances (12 starts). He’s a four-pitch pitcher (fastball at around 92, slider, curve and change) who isn’t a strikeout pitcher (6.93 per nine) and walks too many to be effective (3.26 per nine). You can get the ball in the air against Gonzalez (34.6% GB rate) but his home run rate of 10.6% per fly ball is just average. Gonzalez’s batting average against is .242. So Gonzalez is just sort of average.
TBA (versus Aaron Cook) kind of sucks.
Chris Tillman (facing Felix Doubront in the finale) again shows that ERA lies. Tillman’s ERA of 3.22 looks very nice until you look at his 4.25 FIP (exactly league average) and 4.23 xFIP (two percent worse than average). Tillman’s .216 batting average against is excellent but his 2.82 walks per nine and 1.21 homers per nine counteracts it. However average you want to call Tillman, it’s a big step in the right direction for him, as he was verging on being a bust.
1. Nate McLouth, LF
2. J.J. Hardy, SS
3. Chris Davis, DH
4. Adam Jones, CF
5. Matt Wieters, C
6. Mark Reynolds, 1B
7. Manny Machado, 3B
8. Endy Chavez, RF
9. Robert Andino, 2B
WHO’S HOT/WHO’S NOT
At the plate in the last two weeks, the hot hitters for the Orioles have been Matt Wieters (.343/.452/.657, .450 wOBA, 188 wOBP), Nate McLouth (.365/.431/.577, .440 wOBA, 182 wRC), Adam Jones (.264/.339/.453, .348 wOBA, 118 wRC) and J.J. Hardy (.286/.310/.500, .347 wOBA, 117 wRC). On the wrong side of the ledger are Mark Reynolds (.170/.304/.277, .271 wOBA, 65 wRC), Manny Machado (.226/.241/.302, .241 wOBA, 44 wRC) and Robert Andino (.122/.200/.244, .201 wOBA, 17 wRC).
The O’s bullpen is an embarrassment of riches. The Orioles have gotten great seasons from closer Jim Johnson (2.73 ERA/3.36 FIP/3.65 xFIP, 45 saves, 3 blown saves), as well as from Darren O’Day (2.43 ERA/3.06 FIP/3.42 xFIP), Troy Patton (2.58 ERA/3.26 FIP/3.33 xFIP), Pedro Strop (2.26 ERA/3.64 FIP/3.99 xFIP), Luis Ayala (2.69 ERA/3.89 FIP/4.09 xFIP), Matt Lindstrom (2.72 ERA/3.49 FIP/4.02 xFIP), Brian Matusz (1.74 ERA/2.04 FIP/1.91 xFIP) and Steve Johnson (1.10 ERA/2.80 FIP/3.70 xFIP). That is a very impressive bullpen, career years or not.
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) and LHP Tsuyoshi Wada (recovery from May 2012 Tommy John surgery) are out for the season, but Markakis may return for the playoffs. RHP Stuart Pomeranz (left oblique strain, sore back) is on the 60-day DL. LHP Troy Patton (sprained right ankle) and 1B Jim Thome (herniated disk in neck) are on the 15-day DL but both may return in this series. 3B Wilson Betemit (right wrist) is out indefinitely and RHP Jason Hammel (right knee) is day-to-day.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE RED SOX?
First losing season since 1997. Ugh.
In the last fortnight, the hot Red Sox hitters have been Mauro Gomez (.400/.429/.750, .491 wOBA, 214 wRC), Jacoby Ellsbury (.346/.393/.481, .372 wOBA, 131 wRC), Ryan Kalish (.375/.444/.375, .370 wOBA, 130 wRC) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.250/.344/.500, .360 wOBA, 124 wRC). However, Pedro Ciriaco (.222/.271/.289, .267 wOBA, 59 wRC), Mike Aviles (.194/.265/.226, .220 wOBA, 27 wRC), James Loney (.209/.244/.233, .215 wOBA, 23 wRC), Daniel Nava (.148/.179/.185, .164 wOBA, -12 wRC) and Scott Podsednik (.156/.182/.156, .154 wOBA, -19 wRC) are as cold as ice.
As for the starters, Clay Buchholz (1.99 ERA/3.28 FIP/4.83 xFIP) had a nice fortnight. Aaron Cook (3.27 ERA/5.20 FIP/4.03 xFIP) flatters to deceive, and Daisuke Matsuzaka (13.03 ERA/7.45 FIP/5.08 xFIP) couldn’t deceive a dead man. In the bullpen, Craig Breslow (0.00 ERA/3.60 FIP/4.34 xFIP), Rich Hill (0.00 ERA/1.98 FIP/3.08 xFIP), Scott Atchison (0.00 ERA/2.25 FIP/2.25 xFIP) and Andrew Miller (0.00 ERA/3.10 FIP/3.10 xFIP) retain the Blutarsky ERA Award, while Junichi Tazawa (1.50 ERA/0.27 FIP/1.00 xFIP) and Mark Melancon (2.25 ERA/1.35 FIP/1.72 xFIP) were also impressive.
In April if you told me that you had bet that the Orioles would be in the playoffs, I would have called you a fool for wasting your money. But I didn’t, so dinner is on you.