Orioles-Red Sox series preview: Looking to clinch a winning record

Orioles-Red Sox series preview: Looking to clinch a winning record

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox
Here’s hoping for more Ryan Mountcastle dingers at Fenway. | Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles’ playoff hopes are practically nonexistent, but they can guarantee an above-.500 mark with three more wins.

The math is impossible to ignore. The Orioles aren’t going to make the playoffs this year. After a 3-4 homestand against the Tigers and Astros, they’re four games back of the Mariners with just 10 games left to play. And since the M’s hold the tiebreaker in the event the two teams finish with the same record, the O’s are essentially five games back. Realistically, it’s just not going to happen, unless the Mariners keep blowing nine-run leads every night.

That doesn’t mean the Orioles have nothing to play for. With just under two weeks remaining in the season, they’re on the brink of clinching a winning record, which would be their first since 2016. The O’s need three victories in these final 10 games to reach the magical 82-win mark. And with their final six games coming against the postseason-bound Yankees and Blue Jays, the Orioles’ best chance to rack up the wins starts tonight with a four-game set against the last-place Red Sox. (I love typing “last-place Red Sox.”)

The O’s have alternated wins and losses in their previous six games at Fenway Park this year, so if the pattern holds, they should be capable of a split. The Red Sox, who are just playing out the string at this point, have lost 12 of their last 17 games. Second baseman Trevor Story, their $140 million free agent signing who had started to get hot at the end of August, is sidelined with an injured heel, joining key contributors such as pitchers Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Whitlock, and Tanner Houck on Boston’s injured list. Meanwhile, the Orioles will send Jordan Lyles, Kyle Bradish, and Dean Kremer — three pitchers each coming off the most stellar outings of their seasons — to the hill.

This is certainly a winnable series for the Orioles. But we thought that about the Tigers series last week, and, well…

Game 1: Monday, 7:10 PM, MASN 2

RHP Jordan Lyles (11-11, 4.50) vs. RHP Connor Seabold (0-3, 10.47)

Lyles went the distance against the Tigers last week, beginning the Orioles’ amazing stretch of three straight games in which starting pitchers worked into the ninth inning. It was the first complete game in a decade for Lyles, matching the feat he’d accomplished as a 21-year-old for the Astros in his second big-league season. Only three other players from that 2012 game are still active in the majors, so yeah, it’s been a while. The last time Lyles faced the Red Sox, they crushed him for a season-worst eight runs in 3.2 innings Sept. 10, Lyles’ first start back from an illness. Only six times this year has Lyles failed to complete five innings, and three of those times came against the Red Sox. They seem to have his number.

The 26-year-old Seabold has just five major league starts to his name, and they haven’t been pretty. Including his lone start last year, he’s allowed more earned runs (21) than innings pitched (19.1) for an ugly 9.78 ERA. On paper, this is the kind of guy the O’s should clobber, but you never know with this offense. Seabold has an Orioles connection; the club drafted him out of high school in their 19th round in 2014, but he elected to attend Cal State before the Phillies made him a third-round pick in 2017.

Game 2: Tuesday, 7:10 PM, MASN 2

RHP Kyle Bradish (4-7, 4.65) vs. RHP Michael Wacha (11-1, 2.70)

Wowza, Kyle Bradish! The 26-year-old rookie has elevated his game since returning from the IL in August, registering a 2.59 ERA in that 10-start stretch. And lately, the righty who formerly struggled to get through five frames has turned himself into an innings eater, working seven or more innings in four of his last six outings. It culminated with the best game of his career last time out against the Astros, in which Bradish came within one out of a complete game shutout. Bradish was a hard-luck loser in his last outing against the Sox, holding them to one run in seven strong innings but taking a 1-0 defeat.

I did a double-take at Michael Wacha’s record there. Eleven and one? For a bad team? I know a pitcher’s individual win-loss record doesn’t mean much, but that’s a surprising mark for a guy who was five years removed from his last healthy, decent season. Wacha, pitching for his fourth team in the last four seasons, is flashing the form that made him an All-Star for the Cardinals in 2015. Since returning from an IL stint for right shoulder inflammation in August, Wacha has allowed more than three runs only once in eight starts, and also worked at least six innings in all but one. That includes two strong outings against the Orioles, both of which he won.

Game 3: Wednesday, 7:10 PM, MASN 2

RHP Dean Kremer (8-5, 3.07) vs. LHP Rich Hill (7-7, 4.81)

Kremer joined Lyles in the complete-game club in his last outing, making his a shutout for good measure. Against the hard-hitting Astros, no less. Very impressive, Dean. Kremer hasn’t allowed more than three runs in an outing in any of his last eight starts, pitching five or more innings each time. Quietly, he’s become a pivotal member of the Orioles’ rotation, and single-handedly keeping the Manny Machado trade from being a complete disaster. Kremer faced the Red Sox twice in August, getting a no-decision in a strong effort at Camden Yards on Aug. 11 before losing at Fenway on Aug. 21.

As for Hill, he just keeps getting it done at age 42, the oldest pitcher in the majors. I still can’t get over that this guy had a 7.80 ERA for the Orioles in 2009 and went on to pitch another 13 years and counting. Back then I figured he was destined for the same baseball graveyard that has claimed so many ineffective O’s hurlers before him. He’s now in his third stint with the Red Sox — one of nine organizations he’s pitched for since the O’s non-tendered him — and has been decent if not spectacular, providing stability to a Sox rotation in constant flux. Hill has had two scoreless outings against the Orioles this year — one for five innings, one for four — along with a rough one in which they tagged him for six runs in four innings May 30.

Game 4: Thursday, 1:35 PM, MASN

TBD vs. TBD

Neither team has announced a starter for the afternoon finale as of this writing. The Orioles went with Mike Baumann in their last turn through the rotation, giving him four innings and 58 pitches against the Astros in his second major league start of the season. Baumann could get another chance, or the Birds could turn to the recently recalled Spenser Watkins to fill the spot formerly held by Tyler Wells, who’s now out for the season with shoulder inflammation.

For the Sox, this would normally be Nick Pivetta’s turn in the rotation. The Canadian right-hander has been basically a league-average pitcher since the Sox acquired him in a 2020 midseason trade with the Phillies (a deal that also brought Seabold, Boston’s Game 1 starter). Pivetta has faced the Orioles three times this season, going 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA.

Full Story / Source: https://www.camdenchat.com/2022/9/26/23371331/orioles-red-sox-series-preview

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