A few notes and a look at the Orioles-Red Sox series

If it seems like it has been a long time between games within the American League East for the Orioles, that is because it has. The Orioles just completed their longest stretch of the season between games against a division rival.

They have played 21 straight non-AL East games since May 7, going 12-9. It was a stretch scheduled for 22 games, shortened by a rainout in Minnesota.

Now the top two teams in the AL East meet for a four-game series starting this afternoon when the Orioles (28-20) host the Red Sox (30-20). The Red Sox begin the series leading the division by one game over the Birds of Baltimore.

The Red Sox are playing better than the last time the Orioles saw them. The O's beat the Red Sox in two out of three at Fenway Park on April 11-13, winning by scores of 9-7 and 9-5 before losing the series finale 4-2.

hardy-schoop-funny-gray-boston-sidebar.jpgThey won the first game of that series when Chris Davis hit a three-run homer in the ninth off Boston closer Craig Kimbrel to break a 6-6 tie. They won the second game as J.J. Hardy hit two homers out near the Pesky Pole in right field. They were 7-0 at that point, producing the best start in team history.

The Orioles outscored Boston 20-16 in that series as Davis went 4-for-13 with two homers and seven RBIs. Manny Machado went 6-for-13 with two doubles, and Mark Trumbo went 4-for-13 with two homers and five RBIs.

Mookie Betts went 7-for-14 in that series for Boston, and David Ortiz went 4-for-11 with a homer and four RBIs. We'll see if Ortiz can start today. He was a late scratch Sunday due to a left foot injury after being hit by a pitch on Saturday. Ortiz has had a huge year for the Red Sox, batting .339 with 13 homers, 46 RBIs and an OPS of 1.140.

The Red Sox are 22-11 since they started the season 8-9. Their offense has been prolific with a team batting average of .295 and they are averaging 5.9 runs per game. They have scored 62 more runs than the next closest AL team.

Usually not known for stealing bases, this Boston team leads the major leagues with a 92.1 stolen base percentage at 35-for-38. The Red Sox went 5-for-5 against the Orioles the first time these teams played.

Meanwhile it looks like the Orioles got their offense on track at Cleveland:

* Houston series: .203 average, seven runs, three homers, 52 strikeouts, 4-for-28 with RISP.
* Cleveland series: .290 average, 16 runs, three homers, 28 strikeouts, 7-for-29 with RISP.

The Orioles are 17-8 at home and they are 6-1-1 in eight home series, losing one to Seattle and splitting four games with the White Sox. The O's are 9-5 versus AL East teams, including a 6-2 mark at home.

The Orioles went 11-8 against Boston last year, including a 7-2 mark at Camden Yards. They have won the season series four consecutive years against Boston for the first time since 1964-67. The O's are 48-30 (.615) versus the Red Sox since 2012.

How will the O's fare in this series? What are the keys the next four games?

Grimes rolling, Barker debuts: Single-A Frederick right-hander Matthew Grimes pitched eight scoreless innings Sunday as the Keys beat Carolina 2-0. Grimes allowed just two singles with no walks and five strikeouts and is 7-2 with an ERA of 1.21. He ranks first in the Carolina League in wins and second in ERA.

An 18th-round pick out of Georgia Tech in 2014, Grimes has thrown 21 consecutive scoreless innings dating to the first inning of his start May 17. Over his last four starts, Grimes has allowed one run over 28 2/3 innings for an ERA of 0.31. The Keys are 18-8 their past 26 games.

Right-hander Brandon Barker made his O's organization debut Sunday pitching for Double-A Bowie. The 23-year-old right-hander, acquired Monday in the Brian Matusz deal, got the win as the Baysox beat Akron 8-3. Barker went five innings, allowing five hits and three runs with four walks and three strikeouts, throwing 97 pitches. The game was shortened to seven innings by rain.

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