In a 60-game regular season, a loss is more costly than ever. Especially when it comes against arguably the worst team in the league.
Thus the Boston Red Sox must already play with a sense of urgency as they wrap up their three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday afternoon. Boston bashed Baltimore 13-2 in the season opener Friday before a sound 7-2 defeat in a matinee Saturday.
The two American League East rivals meet 10 times this season, meaning the Orioles make up nearly 17 percent of the Red Sox’s schedule. With eight teams from each league set to make the playoffs, a 9-1 or 8-2 record against a division rival can do a lot to put a club over the top.
Right-hander Ryan Weber takes the mound in the series finale looking to get the Red Sox back on track. The Orioles counter with left-hander Wade LeBlanc.
Part of an Opening Day roster for the first time in his career, Weber could use a hand from the Boston offense similar to the support Nathan Eovaldi received in Friday’s opener. The Red Sox’s rotation is their weakness — Weber went 1-1 with a 7.94 ERA in his three starts last season and is still the No. 3 starter — so the bats need to carry the load to keep the team afloat.
Doing so would mean getting leadoff man Andrew Benintendi and No. 3 hitter Rafael Devers going. The duo is a combined 0-for-18 to begin the campaign, with Devers particularly struggling as part of a four-strikeout game Saturday.
“I think you always press, especially at the beginning of the season. These guys were both swinging the bat well in the preseason,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “You think you’re going to just come right out and continue to get a lot of hits, and then all of a sudden you get through the first game with no hits and you start pressing a little. … Once they get them, I think they’ll relax and be the hitters that we know.”
J.D. Martinez and Jackie Bradley Jr. have five hits apiece, while Alex Verdugo — the key return in the Mookie Betts/David Price trade — went 3-for-4 in his team debut Saturday. Facing a lefty in LeBlanc, Roenicke might look to give Benintendi the day off and insert Kevin Pillar in the lineup.
LeBlanc, a minor league signing by the Orioles during the offseason, has shown in the past he’s capable of holding his own. The 35-year-old had a 3.72 ERA in 32 games (27 starts) for the Seattle Mariners in 2018 before an oblique injury contributed to his 5.71 ERA last year.
Anything close to LeBlanc’s 2018 form would be a welcome sight for the Orioles, who are largely expected to be the AL East punching bag yet again this season. That doesn’t mean the team isn’t still looking for positives, like flamethrowing right-hander Miguel Castro whiffing All-Star Xander Bogaerts on three pitches in a key moment during Saturday’s tilt.
“No right-hander wants to face Miguel Castro when he looks like that,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
–Field Level Media