The Boston Red Sox continue their American League wild card chase when they open a three-game series at the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday.
A series against the team tied for the worst record in baseball could be just what the doctor ordered following Boston suffering a three-game sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees.
Boston (88-68) trails New York by one-game for the first wild card — and the homefield advantage that goes with it — and has only a one-game lead on the Toronto Blue Jays. But while Toronto and New York bang heads, the Red Sox kick off a run down the I-95 corridor with three in Baltimore (50-106) and finish the season with three against Washington.
“You’ve just got to make sure you’re locked in Tuesday and start playing good baseball,” manager Alex Cora said Sunday night. “It’s not that we played bad baseball over the weekend. We just got beat.”
Another plus for Boston is potentially two Chris Sale starts over the final six games if needed. The left-hander, who is 5-0 with a 2.57 ERA since his return from Tommy John surgery, faces Orioles left-hander Bruce Zimmermann (4-4, 4.83) in Tuesday’s opener.
Since returning from the COVID-19 injured list, Sale is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in two starts. Last time out he allowed two runs on six hits in five innings to beat the New York Mets. He struck out eight.
Sale has dominated the Orioles in his career, posting a 10-2 mark with a 2.58 ERA in 22 games, 16 of them starts. Two of Sale’s seven 2021 starts have come against Baltimore and he is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in those games.
Zimmermann, a rookie who has been out since June due to biceps tendinitis followed by a sprained right ankle, returns to the rotation after making a rehab start for Triple-A Norfolk on Thursday. He allowed two runs on four hits over four innings, while striking out six.
Zimmermann made two starts against the Red Sox in April, going 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA, striking out nine batters in 12 innings.
The Orioles are coming off a 7-4 loss on Sunday, which meant a split of a four-game series with the Texas Rangers. Cedric Mullins, who recently became the first 30-30 man in Orioles’ history, was out of the lineup for the second straight day Sunday due to hamstring tightness but pinch-hit in the seventh. Anthony Santander left the game after making the final out in the eighth.
“He just came out with some leg discomfort,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
Austin Hays (0-for-3 with a walk) saw his 11-game hitting streak end.
The Orioles may be without right-handed starter Chris Ellis (1-0, 2.15) the rest of the way due to arm fatigue.
“I think you’re seeing more arm fatigue around the league, and core stuff, probably because of the length of this season compared to the last,” Hyde said.
The Red Sox appeared ready to salvage the finale against the Yankees before New York scored four runs in the eighth inning for a 6-3 win. It was Boston’s seventh loss in their last eight games versus New York.
“It’s not what we wanted coming into the series,” Cora said of getting swept. “We didn’t get the job done. It’s that simple.”
–Field Level Media