7:05 PM EST, MASN – Money Line: Orioles -106, Run Line: 10
Division rivals jockeying for the Playoffs meet tonight at Camden Yards, as the Baltimore Orioles host the Boston Red Sox in the first entry of a brief two-game series. Winners of four straight games, Boston (66-52, 3rd in AL East), John Farrell’s charges have certainly made things interesting in the division, where they now trail the Toronto Blue Jays by one game, and tonight’s opponent Baltimore by a half game, all the while holding onto the last Wild Card in the American League, a game-and-a-half ahead of the Detroit Tigers. Monday Night’s 3-2 victory at Cleveland kept the momentum rolling, as the ageless David Ortiz saved the day by virtue of a two-run Home Run in the Sixth Inning, followed shortly thereafter by Jackie Bradley Jr., who extended the lead to 3-2 in that very stanza. And that would prove to be all that starting pitcher Drew Pomeranz (9-9, 2.99 ERA) would need, who by the end of the night earned his first victory since being acquired from the San Diego Padres a week ago. The Lefty was solid throughout the contest, tossing 7.2 quality innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits, with six strikeouts and a pair of walks, while also relinquishing a homer. From there, the Bullpen took care of business, as Craig Kimbrel (3.32 ERA, 60 Strikeouts) earned his twentieth Save of the campaign.Taking the mound tonight for John Farrell and Co. is Eduardo Rodriguez (2-5, 5.43 ERA), who after performing wildly disappointingly over the first half of the season, looks to be on his way towards fulfilling his potential. Before the All-Star Break, the Lefthander quite frankly looked like a neophyte 23-year old, posting a dreadful ERA of 8.59 leaving many to believe if he would be better served moving towards the Bullpen or going back down to the Minors. However, the team’s patience in him has paid off, for over the course of his last 28.1 innings, the Southpaw has registered a solid 3.18 ERA, which has helped him cement a place in the Rotation as the Red Sox continue to compete for a postseason birth. Though he hasn’t earned a victory since July 16th, and Boston has consequently gone on to win only one out of his last five starts, one could hardly place the blame on this kid. In the month of August alone, Rodriguez has logged seventeen strikeouts compared to just four walks, while allowing five runs on fourteen hits over 17.2 innings of work. The problem though has been that he hasn’t received much in the way of run support from his teammates; the Lineup has contributed a paltry average of 1.6 runs over his last five starts, scoring more than two runs only once. That’s been very uncharacteristic of a group that has been one of the American League’s best throughout the season; Boston leads the league in Hits (1,163), Runs (640), Doubles (261), Batting Average (.285), On-Base Percentage (.350), and Slugging Percentage (.468), while also ranking eighth in Home Runs (148) and third in Walks (393). Seven different players have hit at least a dozen homers, led by the aforementioned Ortiz, who has gone yard twenty-six times in this, his final season as a professional. The 40-year old has put together quite a swan song, batting .310 with 119 hits, thirty-seven doubles, and a team-high ninety-eight RBIs. Big Papi has enjoyed quite a career against the Orioles, facing them on 238 occasions, pelting fifty-two homers and 169 RBIs.
Meanwhile, if the Orioles (66-51, 2nd in AL East) are indeed going to repeat as division champions, then they are in for one helluva fight over the final six weeks of the season. Baltimore has fifteen games against Boston and Toronto left on their schedule, while amassing a record of 12-11 against them up to this point. Fatigue seems to be another foe that Buck Showalter’s charges are currently battling, for this team simply hasn’t been the same since the All-Star Break. Before midseason, the O’s were in the driver’s seat in the AL East, owning a stellar 51-36 record, but since the Break have been largely average going 15-15 over that span. Thankfully, they were able to emerge on the winning side of that equation Sunday Night, as they wrapped up their West Coast trip with a miraculous 8-7 come-from-behind victory at San Francisco. The visiting side fell behind 7-1 after five innings, as starting pitcher Wade Miley (7-10, 5.23 ERA) was lifted after a poor 4.1 innings of labor in which the Lefthander yielded six earned runs on eight hits, while serving up a homer and a pair of walks compared to only one strikeout. By the Seventh Inning, all seemed lost, but then their fortunes changed; Matt Wieters scored via an Adam Jones’ Sacrifice Fly, followed by Hyun Soo Kim’s Double that drove home Pedro Alvarez, and then in the Eighth Inning Mark Trumbo blasted his thirty-fourth Home Run of the year, while J.J. Hardy brought Jonathan Schoop home by virtue of a Single to Centerfield. However, Schoop was far from finished, as the Secondbaseman earned the role of hero, jacking a three-run dinger in the Ninth Inning, completing one of the most impromptu of rallies. Now, after a well-deserved day off, the Orioles get the benefit of enjoying an eight-game homestand, which is great news considering they are a far better team when playing at the friendly confines of Camden Yards than when playing elsewhere; Baltimore is a stellar 39-17 at home (.696 Win Percentage) opposed to a 27-34 mark on the road (.443). Ironically, they’ve been consistently powerful offensively no matter where they’ve played, but it has been the Pitching Staff that has suffered the most from the change in venues; the O’s have yielded 223 runs at home this season, but have allowed 288 elsewhere. That of course leads us to tonight’s starter, Yovani Gallardo (4-4, 5.17 ERA), whom Showalter and his Staff are hoping can emerge as a true complement to ace Chris Tillman. The 30-year old has been far from solid in his fifteen starts this season, posting the worst Strikeout/Walk Ratio of the Rotation (1.39). With that said, the Righthander has had his moments, most recently his unfortunate performance in last Wednesday’s 1-0 loss at Oakland. Gallardo relinquished just one lone run on four hits over the course of six innings, striking out six Athletics and walking two. In fact, that was the third Quality Start that he has managed to put together in his past four starts, lasting at least six full innings and yielding two or fewer runs. Granted, he’s a far cry from the All-Star he was in Milwaukee in which he went 47-26 with a 3.67 ERA from 2010 to 2012, but if Baltimore are truly going to break through to their first World Series appearance since 1983, then this guy, or somebody is going to have to step up in the Rotation, for the current crew simply can’t be relied upon in the Playoffs, if they even make it that far. Apart from Tillman (15-4, 3.46 ERA) the other five pitchers comprising the Rotation have gone an underwhelming 19-33 with a 5.39 ERA.