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You might see the Red Sox offense on the back of a milk carton, as it certainly was not in Chicago as the Red Sox mustered a mere 10 runs in the four-game series. They were fortunate to maintain a 2.5 game lead in the Wild Card over the Rangers, who look to be the last of the competition with the Rays fading away (down 7.5 games) and losing Carlos Pena for the season with two broken fingers.
The homestand opens with a quick two-game series with the Orioles, who lately have provided a pick-me-up for the Sox. The Sox are 6-1 against the O’s at Fenway and 11-2 overall against them this season, marking the fifth consecutive year they have won the season series.
Clay Buchholz (4-3, 4.40 ERA, 1.50 WHIP) suffered his worst outing of the year when he gave up seven runs in four innings as the Patriots beat the Ravens 18-10 (not really, but look at that score!), though he did not qualify for the win. Buchholz certainly has memories against the Orioles, throwing a no-hitter against them two years ago in his second career start, and so far, that effort has him chasing his past. He will face David Hernandez (1-1, 11.1 IP, 3 ER, 12 H, 6 K, 4 BB vs BOS), who has been up and down to the minors this season, but who has two quality outings against the Red Sox.
Paul Byrd (1-1, 7.56, 1.92) was quickly reacclimated to gravitational forces by the White Sox after he outdueled Roy Halladay in his first start leaves one to wonder whether he is any better than John Smoltz or Brad Penny (the versions who pitched for the Red Sox). Red Sox punching bag Jason Berken (0-2, 6.1 IP, 10 ER, 15 H, 3 K, 4 BB) takes the mound opposite Byrd.
The Oriole offense is not the reason they are looking at another last place finish in the East; the league worst pitching staff can take that dishonor. This offense is an average one, which in this division is clearly not enough, but the nucleus is young and exciting. Nick Markakis is a consistent outfielder and this year, he is hitting .301 with 16 home runs, 91 RBI, and 81 runs. For a young player (25 years old), he has been remarkably consistent since making the big leagues in 2006. His career average is .300 and through his first three seasons, he has averaged 20 home runs, and should hit those benchmarks again in 2009.
Adam Jones looks like a star in the making and made his first of what could be many All-Star appearances this season. He is hitting .277 with 19 home runs, 70 RBI, 83 runs, and also has 10 steals. Nolan Reimold, who began the season in the minors, is also hitting .277 and has chipped in 14 home runs. Catcher Matt Weiters made his much anticipated debut earlier this season, but so far has not found his power stroke with only five round trippers in 77 games, but has raised his average to a respectable .264 after a very slow start. Veteran Brian Roberts is hitting .284 with 27 steals, 14 home runs, 49 doubles, 65 RBI, and 96 runs.
Two things that have jumpstarted the Red Sox recently are coming home and facing the Orioles and they get both with this series. The Red Sox flat out own the Orioles this season, but do face one pitcher who has beaten them. The ‘B’ team of the starting rotation also has its turn in this early week series, but the Red Sox can put up numbers against the weak Orioles bullpen. The Sox should improve to 13-2 against the Orioles this season with a sweep of this set.