Red Sox Look to Reverse Fortunes Against Orioles’ Fortified Pitching Staff

Chris TillmanRemember when the Red Sox used to have little trouble with the Orioles?

From 2005-11, the Sox never dropped a season series against Baltimore, including winning 16 of 18 in 2009. However, the Orioles flipped the script in 2012, winning 13 of 18 matchups. This year, the Orioles lead the season series 5-2 entering a three-game set over the weekend at Camden Yards. Baltimore will be around a -140 series betting favorite.

Boston last saw the Orioles from June 13-16 in Baltimore. The Orioles won three of four in that one, their sixth straight series win against the Red Sox. Baltimore is even better now after making two big trades to bolster its pitching staff to go along with one of the most potent lineups in baseball behind Chris Davis and Manny Machado.

On July 2, the Orioles got starter Scott Feldman from the Cubs. Feldman is a middle-of-the-rotation pitcher who induces ground balls. He has been solid in his four starts with Baltimore, going 2-1 with a 4.79 ERA and one home run allowed. His ERA is inflated by a seven-run start July 8 against the Rangers, but his other three outings have been quality starts, and the Orioles have won them all.

Feldman is scheduled to start Saturday against the Sox. The former Ranger has faced Boston eight times — twice as a starter — in his career, and he is 1-0 with a 3.91 ERA in 23 innings. Consider a hitting prop on Mike Napoli against Feldman. Napoli is 11-for-23 with two homers and six RBIs in his career against his former teammate. David Ortiz has two homers in six at-bats off Feldman.

The other pitcher the Orioles traded for was reliever Francisco Rodriguez from Milwaukee earlier this week. At one point in his career, K-Rod was one of the best closers in the game, but those days are in the past. Now, he will help set up Jim Johnson, who leads the majors in saves.

In Friday’s game, Chris Tillman (12-3, 3.84 ERA) is scheduled to start for Baltimore. The All-Star has allowed more than three earned runs just once in his past nine starts. The Orioles have won 10 of his past 11 outings overall, one of which was June 14, when Tillman shut out the Red Sox on three hits over six innings in a 2-0 victory. He also pitched April 11 at Fenway and allowed two runs and six hits in a no-decision. It might not be wise to bet on a Boston batter homering Friday night, because no current player has off Tillman. Dustin Pedroia has had some success, though, hitting .294 with three RBIs against the right-hander.

Red Sox pitchers haven’t fared great against the Orioles’ Davis this season. The American League MVP candidate and big-league home run leader is batting .280 with four homers and eight RBIs. Machado also has feasted on Boston pitching, hitting .438 with five doubles and six RBIs. Boston won’t visit Baltimore again until the season’s final series.

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