This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
The Boston Red Sox continue their home stand with the visiting Baltimore Orioles, and hope to finally put their offensive struggles behind them.
April 23rd, Jeremy Guthrie vs. Jon Lester
Jeremy Guthrie was 0-3 against the Red Sox in 2009, but held the team to just 3 runs in 5.2 innings in his final start against them. David Ortiz is expected back in the lineup against Guthrie since he’s a right handed pitcher, and in the past Ortiz has hit him well with 2 home runs in July of last season. Considering Ortiz remains mired in an early season slump, this may be the opportunity he should take advantage of to finally break out in a big way. Ortiz is hitless in his last 8 at bats. Dustin Pedroia and J.D. Drew round out the hitters who have gotten good hacks against Guthrie. On the other hand, Mike Lowell and Adrian Beltre have combined to collect 5 hits in 41 at bats against Guthrie.
Jon Lester was 4-0 against the Baltimore Orioles in 2009, allowing just 5 runs in 27 innings of work. In his career, he is 10-0 with a 2.75 ERA. Despite the dominance, there are several players in the Orioles lineup that have hit Lester well. In particular, Miguel Tejada has gotten a hit in every game he’s played against Lester. The Baltimore disabled list holds a few players who have hit Lester well, namely Felix Pie and Brian Roberts. Nick Markakis has 10 strikeouts in 35 at bats against Lester.
April 24th, Brian Matusz vs. John Lackey
Marco Scutaro is the only current Red Sox player who has faced 23 year old Brian Matusz. In just the second start of his career, Scutaro took Matusz deep in an eventual 7-3 Blue Jays victory over the Orioles. If history is any indication, the Red Sox offense may struggle against the young lefty. Like other young lefties before him, David Price and Scott Kazmir come to mind, Matusz may stay on top of the offense.
John Lackey has a career 8-3 record against the Baltimore Orioles in 12 starts as an Angel, including 2-0 in 2009, allowing just 3 runs in 15 innings. Miguel Tejada hasn’t faced Lackey since 2007, but it’s worth mentioning that he homered off the righty in their last matchup. The majority of the Orioles lineup have faced Lackey just a few times. Luke Scott has hit Lackey well in very few at bats, with 2 home runs in just 4 at bats.
April 25th, David Hernandez vs. Tim Wakefield
David Hernandez’s rookie year of 2009 saw a lot of ups and downs. While he finished the season with 4-10 record and an ERA skyrocketing near 6.00, he pitched well during parts of the season. This was especially true when he pitched against the Red Sox. In a late July start, Hernandez limited the Red Sox to 1 run over 7 innings, and a week later couldn’t finish the 5th inning against Boston. In a September game, the Red Sox knocked Hernandez around for 6 runs in less than 3 innings of work, and he rebounded a few weeks later by allowing just 3 runs in 6 innings. The Red Sox collectively hit Hernandez at nearly a .300 clip, but Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis are worth keeping an eye on in particular. The pair have 5 home runs off Hernandez between them.
The Red Sox have announced that Daisuke Matsuzaka will replace Tim Wakefield in the rotation, and his Sunday start against the Orioles will be his last regular turn in the rotation. It’s unclear what this means as Wakefield has previously stated that one of his goals is to become the all-time franchise leader in wins. He is currently 18 wins away from the all-time lead, trailing Roger Clemens and Cy Young with 192. Though Wakefield will head to the bullpen, the guess here is he will be inserted back into the rotation when an injury crops up or an opportunity arises where a starter can be skipped to give them some rest. The move makes a lot of sense, though it’s incredible to consider that this could be the final start for Wakefield as a member of the Boston Red Sox.
As far as the Orioles are concerned, Wakefield has had his own struggles over the course of his career. Though he hasn’t faced the Orioles since 2008, he alternated success against the Orioles on a year-to-year basis. For example, in 2008 he limited the O’s to just 3 runs over 14 innings of work. In 2007, he allowed 9 runs in 10.2 innings against the O’s. With the return of Miguel Tejada to Baltimore, Wakefield may want to tread lightly. Tejada has 5 home runs against the knuckleballer, while hitting .319 in 72 at bats. Other than Tejada and Cesar Izturis though, the Orioles lack the power numbers against Wakefield.
Fess Up: In the Series Notes before the series against the Texas Rangers, I predicted the Red Sox would take 2 of 3 from the Rangers behind strong starts by Tim Wakefield and Josh Beckett. While they did take 2 of 3, the best starter of the series was not the player I had guessed. Wakefield and Beckett gave up 6 and 7 runs in their starts, while Clay Buchholz struck out 10 and allowed just 3 runs in 6.2 innings.
Series Prediction: If the Red Sox hope to take this series, their offense will need to finally break out. The guess here is the Red Sox will take 2 of 3 from the Orioles, on the backs of strong pitching and a long overdue offensive outburst.
Thanks to M.K. for the photo of Fenway Park on Patriot’s Day!