|Two Red Sox Players Considered Serious MVP Candidates||Connelly’s Top Ten: Holt Magic, Brady is Awesome, Exorcist Wicked Scary||Sox Take Two From SF Giants||Retirement Looms Large For Big Papi|
The Red Sox have an opportunity to put their struggles behind them or exacerbate them as they embark on an eight-game, nine-day road trip to divisional foes Baltimore, Tampa Bay, and New York. The Red Sox just completed a split with the A’s in a frustrating series that has seen even the bullpen, and closer Jonathan Papelbon specifically, falter.
However, they did take two of three from the Orioles just before that to improve to 8-2 against them, winning all three series. The Red Sox took two of the three the team played in Baltimore, which is one of Red Sox Nation’s favorite homes away from home.
John Smoltz (0-1, 9.0 IP, 7 ER, 12 H, 8 K, 2 BB in two starts against the Orioles this season) pitches in the opener against Jeremy Guthrie (0-1, 11.1 IP, 13 R, 10 ER, 16 H, 4 K, 3 BB in two starts vs BOS in 2009). Josh Beckett (1-0, 13.0 IP, 8 ER, 12 H, 10 K, 6 BB in two starts vs BAL) looks for his 13th win of the season against David Hernandez (1-0, 7.0 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 2K, 0 BB vs BOS). Finally, Clay Buchholz (1-1, 3.52 ERA, 1.70 WHIP overall in 2009) is scheduled to face Jason Berken (0-1, 5.0 IP, 4 ER, 8 H, 3 K, 2 BB vs BOS).
On Friday, the Red Sox acquired Victor Martinez from the Indians (in exchange for Justin Masterson and two prospects) and Casey Kotchman from the Braves (in exchange for recently acquired Adam LaRoche). The Orioles made a deal of their own, sending their best reliever in closer George Sherrill to the Dodgers. This should leave the closing duties on Jim Johnson, who has given up three earned runs in two innings to the Red Sox this season.
The Orioles failed to move any of their veteran and expensive core as they look to retool and build around some of their younger guys, so the lineup is going to look the same as it did last week, surprisingly. Nolan Reimold led the way for the Orioles in the most recent series, going 7-10 with two walks in three multi-hit games with three doubles, three runs, an RBI, and even a steal.
Smoltz has something to prove as the fans, and perhaps the team, are beginning to doubt he can become a productive starting pitcher again. He has fallen victim to big innings in nearly every start and his pitches just are not as sharp as they once were, leaving him as an average five inning fifth starter type pitcher. But, the Orioles are clearly rebuilding and this seems to be the Red Sox favorite team to play regardless of location, so the Red Sox should take another series from them.