Opposite dugout: Behind balanced roster, Red Sox have sights set on World Series

Manager: Alex Cora (1st season)
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Record:
29-14

Last 10 games: 5-5

Who to watch: RF Mookie Betts (.353 with 13 HR, 28 RBIs); DH J.D. Martinez (.344 with 12 HR, 36 RBIs); SS Xander Bogaerts (.306 with 12 2B); LHP David Price (3-4, 4.89 ERA); RHP Rick Porcello (5-1, 3.28 ERA), RHP Craig Kimbrel (2.45 ERA, 13 saves)

Season series vs. Orioles: 3-0

Pitching probables:

May 17: RHP Kevin Gausman (3-2) vs. LHP David Price (3-4), 7:10 p.m., MASN
May 18: RHP Alex Cobb (0-5) vs. LHP Drew Pomeranz (1-1), 7:10 p.m., MASN2
May 19: RHP Dylan Bundy (2-5) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (5-1), 7:10 p.m., MASN2
May 20: TBA vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (3-1), 1:05 p.m., MASN2

Inside the Red Sox:

The last time the Orioles traveled to Boston, the Red Sox were in the midst of an historic start to the season. The club dropped its season opener, then rattled off wins in 17 of its next 18 games. Since then, the Red Sox have fallen back down to earth, but still find themselves among the American League’s top records, with a deep postseason run on nearly everyone’s “to-do” list.

Folks in Baltimore are quick to tout the team’s shortstop Manny Machado as a bona fide MVP candidate, with an increasingly legitimate chance to capture the AL Triple Crown - and rightfully so. But up in Beantown, the Red Sox have a superstar of their own in right fielder Mookie Betts. Betts rose to prominence in 2016, finishing second in the AL MVP race after hitting .318 with 31 homers and 113 RBIs. This year, however, he’s taking his numbers to the next level. Entering Wednesday, Betts was leading the AL with a .349 batting average, and tied for the major league lead in home runs with 13. If that weren’t enough, the 25-year-old is also first in slugging percentage (.740), fourth in the AL in on-base percentage (.426) and eighth in hits (51). Of course, while Betts is a big reason why Boston boasts the top team batting average in the AL, he’s not doing it alone. Designated hitter J.D. Martinez is proving to be the league’s best free agent signing from this past offseason. In 42 games, Martinez is hitting a career-best .344, with 12 home runs and 36 RBIs. In addition, third baseman Rafael Devers packs some extra punch, sitting third on the team with seven home runs, while the double play combination of shortstop Xander Bogaerts and second baseman Eduardo Núñez have combined for 69 hits and 31 RBIs.

While the Red Sox have been tearing it up at the plate, they haven’t been a slouch on the mound, either. Entering Wednesday, Boston ranked second in the AL with a 3.67 team ERA and 420 strikeouts. Veteran David Price starts tonight’s series opener opposite Orioles right-hander Kevin Gausman. Price has hit a rough patch recently, posting a 1-3 record and 7.25 ERA over his last four starts. A matchup against the Orioles might be just what the doctor ordered, however. In 25 career starts vs. Baltimore, Price is 12-5 with a 2.81 ERA. Friday starter Drew Pomeranz has been solid so far this year. He’s given up four runs or fewer in each of his five starts, but has been touched up in every outing. Pomeranz’s only win came in his last start at home on May 2 against Kansas City. To say Saturday starter Rick Porcello’s career in Boston has been a roller coaster is an understatement. To see what I mean, check out his records the last three seasons: 9-15, 22-4, 11-17. This year, fittingly, he’s off to a 5-1 start with six quality starts. He’ll face off against Orioles ace Dylan Bundy. In the series finale, Eduardo Rodriguez will look to get back on track after suffering his first loss of the season in his last start. This will be Rodriguez’s second start against the Orioles this year. On April 13, the left-hander allowed just one earned run and struck out eight over six innings.

Craig Kimbrel and his signature pre-pitch stance handle the closing duties for the Red Sox. On the year, Kimbrel is 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA and 12 saves. He’s joined in the bullpen by relievers Heath Hembree, Joe Kelly and Matt Barnes.

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