After a near implosion by Papelbon last night, the Sox managed to win the series against the Blue Jays. The Sox now face off against the last place Baltimore Orioles in the final series before the All Star break. The O's are in the midst of a three game losing streak, and they haven't had the kind of offense you see from a team that stands a chance of digging themselves out of last place any time soon. Nick Markakis is the best hitter on the team right now, and his triple slash - .293/.339/.724 - is worse than all but three of the Red Sox starting lineup: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, J.D. Drew, and Marco Scutaro. Meanwhile, Adrian Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury are tearing through teams left and right with 16 hits, 7 runs, and 9 RBIs between them, and only one of those RBIs was off of a home run. Look for them to continue with this offensive flurry up to the All-Star game.
Pitching Matchup: Andrew Miller (2-0, 3.06 ERA) vs. Jake Arrieta (9-5, 4.74 ERA)
Andrew Miller pitched very well and earned his second career win as a member of the Red Sox last time he was out, giving up only 2 runs on 7 hits over 6 innings pitched. His FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching, a stat that works kind of like ERA but only looks at strikes, walks, hit batters, and home runs. More on this stat in another column.) is at 4.31, which is a little above league average. FIP works well at predicting the future, meaning that Miller is pitching at average major league level and should continue to in the future. It's still difficult to analyze Miller at the major league level at this point, so all we can really do is hope that Miller keeps up his good pitching.
Jake Arrieta, on the other hand, has plenty of data, having started 17 games already this season. His K/9 is at 7.35, his BB/9 is at 4.26, and his WHIP is at 1.35. Great news for the Red Sox, to say the least. Arrieta has given up less than 3 runs in only 7 games this season, but has only given up 4 or more in 4 games. He rarely goes longer than 6 innings, so the Sox will have to jump on him early to get ahead. the Sox will also need to keep an eye out for his slider, which has been a favorite of his since his curveball stopped working so well.
Keys to winning today lie in the Sox playing strong defense, as the Orioles are 9th overall in batting average and 11th in OBP. Keeping them from turning those baserunners into scoring runners will be the way the Sox get out of the game and the series with a win. Good luck and go Sox!