The Red Sox and Orioles will face off in a three-game weekend series in Fenway park starting Friday night.
For the Red Sox, it's been a week to forget. After storming back to 500 after a 4-10 start to the season with a six-game winning streak, the Sox have gone 1-3 in their last four, falling twice to the Oakland Athletics in their own house. Now, a full month into the season, they sit at the bottom of an upside-down A.L. East with the Orioles second.
Typically the Orioles are exactly the sort of team that could revive the Red Sox. While the last time they faced Baltimore was seeing to it that their 2011 collapse came to completion, it was at the end of a terrible year for the Os, who had nothing in the way of pitching. So far in 2012, however, it's been different, with the Orioles sitting on an AL-low 2.83 ERA. Can Boston's bats change their fortunes? Or is it more bad news for the Red Sox?
Boston Red Sox (11-13) vs. Baltimore Orioles (16-9)
Friday, May 4, 7:10 p.m. EST
Jon Lester (1-2, 4.65 ERA) vs. Wei-Yin Chen (2-0, 2.22 ERA)
Jon Lester put many a mind to rest in his last outing, pitching seven terrific innings against the White Sox as Boston recorded its first shutout of the season. It would not be surprising to see this as the start of a long stretch of strong pitching from the left-hander now that April is gone, given Lester's history of tough starts and great finishes. Coming up against the Orioles, a team he's traditionally dominated, shouldn't hurt either.
Wei-Yin Chen has shown no difficulties adjusting to the major leagues. While his fastball sits at just 90 MPH, his changeup and slider have proven more than enough to get by. The best lineup he's faced in the Yankees did manage to get to him for four runs, and his slider's effectiveness may be diminished given the number of righties the Sox will stack the lineup with, but he's not the easy pickings the Sox are used to from Baltimore, nor what you might expect given his low-profile free agency.
Saturday, May 5, 1:10 p.m. EST
Aaron Cook (0-0, N/A) vs. Jason Hammel (3-1, 1.97 ERA)
Aaron Cook will make his Red Sox debut in place of Josh Beckett Saturday. For the Sox to be happy, all they need to see from Cook is ground ball after ground ball. With a strong sinker, Cook has lived and died by his infield defense for years. With Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez, Will Middlebrooks, and MIke Aviles behind him now, he's set up for success.
What's going on with Jason Hammel? Through five starts his fastball is faster, his walks are down, his strikeouts up, and his ERA has plummeted from years past. Is the departure from Coors giving him that extra break he needs on his secondary stuff? Have the Orioles found a philosophical truth to pitching heretofore unknown? At this point, I think we have to assume it's the latter.
Sunday, May 6, 1:35 p.m. EST
Clay Buchholz (3-1, 8.69 ERA) vs. Tommy Hunter (2-1, 4.26 ERA)
Clay Buchholz may be on his last chance after an inconsistent first six innings came crashing down with a disaster seventh last time out, leaving him with six more earned runs to his name. That said outing actually brought his ERA down? That's the real problem. With Aaron Cook up and Beckett not expected to miss any real time, the Sox can't be far from finding a way to get Clay out of the rotation.
Tommy Hunter is the light at the end of the tunnel for Red Sox batters. Something of a junkballer, if the Sox can recognize his wide array of pitches (which, as veterans, they should be able to), then they can get to him for at least a few runs. Of course, with Buchholz on the mound, "a few" probably won't do the job.