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Red Sox to Wrap Up Road Trip With Last Place Orioles

Matt Wieters watches his first Major League home run.  Red Sox fans will get a look at the super-prospect who is off to a slow start in his rookie campaign.

The Red Sox head back up to the mid-Atlantic to finish up the current road trip against division rival Baltimore.  Recently, Camden Yards has been one of the Red Sox homes away from home with plenty of Red Sox jerseys and cheering in Camden Yards.

The fans in metro-DC have not had much to cheer about with either team, both of which reside in last place, but each have beautiful stadiums, and Oriole Park was regarded as the best when it opened.

The Red Sox road trip has been fruitful so far with two wins in three games against both the Nationals and Braves and they will look to win their seventh consecutive series heading into the final series before the All-Star break.  The match-ups feature Jon Lester against Jason Berken (1-4, 6.32 ERA, 1.56 WHIP), John Smoltz and Rich Hill (3-2, 6.03, 1.63), and finally Josh Beckett facing Brad Bergesen (5-2, 3.76, 1.22).

The second game will likely be the most interesting game as long as Lester continues his improvements and Beckett remains on fire in June.  Smoltz’ debut was not as smooth as everyone seemed to think it would be and he got off to quite the rocky start in Washington, so this start will be scrutinized even more to determine if he really is ready to compete at the Major League level again or perhaps needs more rehabilitation.  Hill was acquired from the Cubs in the offseason as a veteran arm and perhaps even the ace of the staff, but since beginning his season late, due to injury, he has looked worse than most of the rest of the rotation.

The Orioles pitching is near the bottom of the majors in most major pitching categories: ERA, starter’s ERA, reliever’s ERA, WHIP, batting average against (last), strikeouts, and home runs allowed.  One of the bright spots has been George Sherrill, who along with Adam Jones was acquired for Erik Bedard, has been the brightest of bright spots for the hurlers.  He was supposedly keeping the closer’s seat warm for Chris Ray as soon as he made a mistake.  The speculation probably gained steam because Sherrill is a lefty, a rarity among closers, but also because he was not stellar in the role last season (31/37, 4.36 ERA).  However, he is 16/18 so far this season and has a .205 ERA, a phenomenal 1.01 WHIP, and 7.92 K/9, which is well below his career average.  He threw a scoreless inning against the Sox in a 2-1 Boston win earlier this season.

Their hitting is pretty average across all categories, but with pitching this bad, mediocre batting helps explain the lowest rung of the divisional ladder.  They do have some good individual stories, however, including Jones, who is beginning to live up to the hype he was getting as a prospect with a .309 BA, 12 HR, 41 RBI, and 50 R.  Nick Markakis is proving to be a very steady outfielder at .299, 8, 48, and 46.  Brian Roberts is also having another productive year with a .284 average, 15 steals, seven dingers, and 54 runs.

In addition to Jones, the Oriole youth movement includes uber-prospect Matt Wieters, who so far has not lived up to billing, sporting a .234 average, two homers, six batted in, and eight scores in 22 games so far.  However, Nolan Reimold has hit the ground running with nine home runs in his 40 games with 20 RBI and 18 R to go along with a .286 average.  The top of their order is actually pretty underrated and is a solid five deep.

This is only the second meeting of the clubs so far in 2009.  The Red Sox swept a four game set in Fenway Park in April, including wins for Lester and Beckett.  The Orioles just took two of three from the Nationals after being swept in Florida this week.  The O’s have been a streaky team all season, already recording two five-game win streaks and losing streaks of four, five (twice), and six in just 75 games.  They sit in last in the East, twelve back of the Sox, but are 23-18 at home.  With Red Sox Nation turning Camden Yards into Fenway on the Inner Harbor, the Red Sox should win another series, taking two of three.

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