By SportsDirect Inc.
Dustin Pedroia sometimes can be the forgotten man atop a Boston Red Sox lineup filled with a wealth of young talent, but opponents can’t help but remember how productive he has been recently at Fenway Park. The four-time All-Star hopes to continue his torrid hitting at home Wednesday, when the Red Sox attempt to complete a sweep of their two-game series against the Baltimore Orioles.
Outside of collecting at least one hit in every game, Pedroia’s first six contests were rather nondescript, as the 33-year-old totaled one run scored and one RBI – both on Opening Day – with no extra-base hits. Fortune smiled on him a bit more, however, in Tuesday’s 8-1 thumping of the Orioles – Boston’s best offensive output of the season – as he used a fifth-inning sacrifice fly and infield singles in his final two at-bats to drive in four runs and lift his batting average at Fenway Park to .406 since July 21. Baltimore’s defeat in the opener was its second consecutive loss after a 4-0 start to the season and marked the second straight time the bullpen let the team down. After surrendering five runs over the last two innings to blow a 3-2 lead in Sunday’s home setback against the New York Yankees, the Orioles gave up three runs in both the seventh and eighth frames on Tuesday.
PITCHING MATCHUP: Orioles RH Ubaldo Jimenez (0-0, 10.38 ERA) vs. Red Sox RH Steven Wright (0-0, 5.40)
Jimenez struggled through a chilly night on Friday and escaped with a no-decision versus the New York Yankees after giving up five runs and seven hits – including a pair of two-run homers – over 4 1/3 innings. Although the 33-year-old allowed only one walk after issuing 72 last season, the effort otherwise fell right in line with his performance during the spring, when he went 0-3 with a 5.94 ERA in five turns. Jimenez has struggled more against Boston than any other American League team over his career, going 2-6 with a 6.82 ERA in 14 starts.
Wright was sharp after the first inning but faded late and did factor in the decision Friday at Detroit after permitting four runs on seven hits and three walks in 6 2/3 frames. The knuckleballer posted a 4.05 ERA at Fenway Park last year – as opposed to his 2.09 road ERA – and was pummeled over his final three starts at home, going 0-1 with a 10.44 ERA. Wright was exceptional against the Orioles last season, however, winning both of his turns while posting a 2.76 ERA and holding them to a .175 average.
1. Boston 1B Mitch Moreland leads the major leagues with six doubles and has recorded at least one in each of his last five games – the first time a Red Sox first baseman has pulled off that feat since 1913.
2. Since working 17 1/3 scoreless frames to begin the season, Orioles’ relievers have since surrendered 12 runs (11 earned) over their last five innings.
3. Red Sox SS Xander Bogaerts went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts in his return to the lineup Tuesday. He had missed the previous four games after being placed on the bereavement list.
PREDICTION: Red Sox 8, Orioles 4