The Red Sox began a run of twenty games in twenty days by getting swept in Boston by the Orioles. Now they will try to end their gauntlet run on a better note with a chance for vengeance in Baltimore.
It's been a good ten days for the Red Sox. Since their 3-8 loss to the Indians that capped off a three-game losing streak on May 10, the Sox are 8-2, taking the last three games against Cleveland, sweeping the Mariners in two games, splitting a short series with the Rays, and then taking a series from the Phillies with Josh Beckett's excellent performance bringing home the win in the rubber match.
Shockingly enough, however, the Orioles will represent the biggest challenge of the bunch by record. They continue to lead the AL East with a 27-15 record--the best in the entire league--though they've not had the best run differential or peripherals in the game. Can the Sox bring them back down to Earth, or will Baltimore continue to frustrate the Sox and keep them below .500?
Boston Red Sox (20-21) vs. Baltimore Orioles (27-15)
Monday, May 21, 7:05 p.m. EST
Clay Buchholz (4-2, 7.77 ERA) vs. Tommy Hunter (2-2, 4.78 ERA)
It's been a terrible year for Clay Buchholz, but he's finally got a good game behind him. While his previous start against the Indians may have been able to provide some confidence with three earned runs in six innings, it was his outing against Tampa Bay that was actually impressive, with two runs coming on five strikeouts, one walk, and six hits in five innings. This is Buchholz' chance to get some momentum going. A bad game today and it's all gone.
Tommy Hunter didn't fair any better in his last outing against the Sox than other junkballers have throughout the season, offering up five runs in 4.1 innings, though the Orioles were eventually able to take the game in 17 innings. The good news is that the Sox seem to be pitching better, right now, and their bats have been reasonably hot even against elite pitchers. With Hunter on the mound, they've got a good chance at staying that way.
Tuesday, May 22, 7:05 p.m. EST
Felix Doubront (4-1, 4.09 ERA) vs. Brian Matusz (3-4, 5.36 ERA)
Felix Doubront really turned up the heat against the Rays, but once again struggled to go deep, with his stamina reserves running short in the sixth inning. The runs still stayed off the board, but runners didn't stay off the bases, leading to a tense end to his outing. Still, aside from the late trouble, he's given the Sox some great outings, and will hopefully be able to do the same against the Orioles.
From top prospect to the back end of the rotation, Matusz has not impressed in the majors. What's worse, rather than getting better, Matusz seems to be regressing as time goes on, having his walks spike since the start of 2011, and striking out fewer batters. He's the type of pitcher the Sox should hit.
Wednesday, May 23, 12:35 p.m. EST
Daniel Bard (3-5, 4.85 ERA) vs. Jake Arrieta (2-4, 4.72 ERA)
After a strong start, Daniel Bard has frankly been a weak link in the Boston rotation (albeit not on the level of Buchholz). He's struggled with his fastball command, and had to lean too heavily on his secondary stuff, allowing opposing batters to sit off-speed and punish him. If the fastball still isn't there, there's plenty of reason to worry.
Jake Arrieta's peripherals look a lot better than his ERA does, and in bursts he's been entirely capable of putting up incredible performances, such as against the Nationals last time out or the Yankees on May 2. The Sox can only hope he's not up for another one of those.