Yes the Red Sox have some rotation issues and some injury issues. But they won 108 games and the World Series last year while the Orioles lost 115 games. And the Orioles went 3-16 against Boston last season. So for them to split a four-game series at Fenway Park is, at the very least, surprising and not bad for this team.
There were some things to like about the last four days.
The rotation was solid: The Orioles’ four starters in the series - David Hess, Andrew Cashner, John Means and Dan Straily - pitched to a 3.48 ERA at Fenway Park. The Orioles could certainly use more innings from their starters, and they have just two quality starts, but that quartet gave up just eight runs in 20 2/3 innings in Boston. The last two days, Means and Straily allowed two runs in 10 innings.
Straily took a no-hitter to the fifth and threw 82 pitches in his second start, reducing an ERA that began the day at 19.29. Last year with Miami he threw his slider 36 percent of the time, and his changeup 16 percent. But he reversed that yesterday and leaned on a very solid changeup, using it 37 percent of the time. He made a 90 mph fastball work with a good tempo, solid command and that strong changeup. It was very encouraging. Now if only the Orioles can get Dylan Bundy going tonight.
The defense remains solid: The Orioles have been pretty solid with the gloves most of this year. In Boston the Red Sox looked very shaky on defense and made six errors in the series, to one by the Orioles. The Birds, who began play Monday leading the majors with 19 double plays, added two more to that total in the series finale. He might not hit much, but Richie Martin has sure stabilized shortstop. Both catchers have been solid. Cedric Mullins has tracked balls down well in the gaps, but there have been a few outfield plays where Mullins and particularly Joey Rickard need to communicate better, or at least sooner.
Jonathan Villar is playing well: He can be overaggressive on the bases, but Villar is batting .300/.355/.486 with three homers, 13 runs, three steals and an OPS of .841. He was on base three times yesterday, batting leadoff, and scored twice while driving in the run that gave the O’s a 2-0 lead in the fifth. He’s already had a nine-game hitting streak and an eight-game streak scoring a run. He’s had a leadoff homer and a four-RBI game. But other than that....
Chris Davis contributed in Boston: Yep, he did. The hitless streak is over, and now he has his first home run as well. Since he had his breakout game on Saturday, he is 4-for-12 the past three games with two doubles, a homer and six RBIs. Davis has just four hits for the season, but he’s driven in eight runs. His defense has been good and his teammates really do seem to like and support him. By doing what he did in Boston, maybe the focus will shift away from Davis for at least a few days.
The Orioles have not lost a road series: They have played three series away from Baltimore, going 2-1 at Yankee Stadium and Rogers Centre and 2-2 at Fenway Park. So they are 2-0-1 in road series after going 3-21-2 in road series last year. They began the 2018 season going 3-17 on the road, and they are 6-4 away to begin this season. It was remarkable how bad they were on the road last year, and this team has done better - much better - to begin the season.
Now the Orioles move on to Florida and play three games at Tropicana Field the next three nights. The Tampa Bay Rays are 12-4 and have won five of five series. So far, the Orioles have played 13 games within the division, going 6-7. New York is 4-2 in the American League East while Tampa Bay is 2-1, Boston is 3-3 and Toronto is 3-5.
Some offense on the farm: O’s affiliates went 3-1 Monday night, and the four teams combined to score 33 runs. Single-A Delmarva improved to 9-1 with yet another victory.
The Shorebirds beat Kannapolis 8-7 as catcher Daniel Fajardo went 3-for-6 with two RBIs and is batting .360. Left fielder Robert Neustrom went 2-for-3 with three walks and is batting .371. Right-hander Ofelky Peralta gave up one earned run over six innings with one walk and 11 strikeouts in a no-decision. Through his first three outings, he has fanned 23 in 10 2/3 innings with a 1.69 ERA.
Triple-A Norfolk beat Durham 10-6. Ryan Mountcastle and DJ Stewart led off the third inning with back-to-back home runs. Mountcastle added a two-run single and has seven RBIs his last six games. Mason Williams has hit safely in five of his past six games, batting .400 (8-for-20) with six RBIs. Winning pitcher Matt Wotherspoon has a 1.93 ERA over four games.
Erie beat Double-A Bowie 9-6 as starter Tyler Herb allowed nine runs (eight earned) in four innings. Rylan Bannon went 3-for-5 with two RBIs. Single-A Frederick won 9-3 at Myrtle Beach. Jake Ring collected a pair of doubles and two walks, and scored four runs while Mason McCoy continued his scorching start, going 3-for-5 with two runs, a double, a home run and four RBIs. McCoy is hitting .457 (21-for-46) with four doubles, a home run and 13 RBIs during his nine-game hitting streak.
Delmarva right-hander Grayson Rodriguez, the O’s top draft pick last June, was named the South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week for the extended season-opening week of April 4-14.
The 19-year-old from Nacogdoches, Texas won two scoreless starts, on April 5 and April 12, combining to give up just three hits - all singles - and five walks while striking out an eye-popping 20 batters over 11 innings. Through 11 league dates, Rodriguez is one of just five starters with a perfect 0.00 ERA and ranks second in strikeouts (20) and batting average against (.086), as well as eighth in WHIP (0.73).