Red Sox travel to face struggling Orioles
The Boston Red Sox have been searching for consistency all season and trying to remain a factor in the hunt for a playoff spot. They will keep trying to do both when coming to Baltimore to start a weekend series with the slumping Orioles Friday night.
Boston just finished taking three of four from Toronto in a division series. The Red Sox beat the Jays 5-0 Thursday afternoon with the best part being a solid six-inning start from Chris Sale, who has struggled all season.
This time, Sale struck out 12 and gave up just two hits. He improved to 4-9 and this was his first regular-season win at Fenway Park since July 11, 2018.
One of the team's biggest pitching problems this season has been in the closer spot. Manager Alex Cora hasn't used one particular person as six players have earned saves since the team did not bring back Craig Kimbrel.
But the bullpen should receive a boost when Nathan Eovaldi returns. He's been a starter during his career but various reports have said the right-hander is headed to the bullpen and possibly to the closer's role.
MLB.com said that Eovaldi, who pitched a scoreless inning in a rehab assignment Thursday, is coming with the Red Sox to Camden Yards and could be activated this weekend. He's been on the disabled list since April 20 (loose body in elbow) and has pitched in just four games this season with an 0-0 record.
"It's very significant," Cora said to MLB.com."That's one more arm, and there's a few more guys that have thrown the ball well, too. It's kind of like the domino effect, like, one more guy is going to help us get the previous inning and the previous inning and the previous inning but everything starts from the first inning."
Boston has gotten plenty of help on offense from Rafael Devers, who came through again in Thursday's win. He hit a three-run homer and now has 19 homers and 73 RBI in this season.
The Orioles have not been hitting well since the All-Star break but snapped out of that with a 9-2 victory in their most recent game, versus Washington on Wednesday night.
The best news from that game might have been that Trey Mancini, who broke an 0-for-24 slide earlier in the series, homered twice. Baltimore needs Mancini's hitting as its offense often has been limited this season.
He broke the slump with a cue ball double that rolled down the right field line the night before and then added the two homers Wednesday.
"It usually takes a hit like that, especially whenever you have a few line-outs throughout the slump and things like that," Mancini told MASN. "So it usually takes a blooper, a cheap hit, to get you feeling good and feeling like at least one of them might have evened out -- and then you just kind of relax that you got a hit and go back to trying to be yourself again."
Hanser Alberto has been one of Baltimore's top hitters this season but he missed Wednesday's game (paternity), and he's expected back for the opener of this series. The Orioles also optioned relief pitcher Tayler Scott back to Triple-A Norfolk.
John Means (7-5, 2.94) starts for the Orioles, and the All-Star is coming off one of his worst outings of the season as Tampa Bay touched him up for six runs in six innings in a July 13 loss.
The rookie is 1-1 with 3.98 ERA in four career games versus Boston, three of which are starts. As for the Red Sox, they'll go with David Price (7-2, 3.16), who is 16-5 with a 2.65 ERA against the Orioles.
In addition, Price is 8-0 with a 2.72 ERA in his 12 starts in Baltimore.
--Field Level Media
Updated July 18, 2019