The Red Sox are perennial contenders, but they have struggled so far in 2012 due to a combination of factors. This lapse could lead to an opportunity for the up-and-coming birds that have been very impressive in the early goings.
It's been a long time since the Orioles finished better than the Red Sox. In fact, it has been 15 years since the Baltimore finished with a better record than Boston. Here are four reasons why this might be the year that the Orioles finally break that streak of bad luck.
I knew the Red Sox were pretty banged up, but I had no idea how deep their DL is.
Among those on the DL are Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Andrew Bailey, and that has put the Red Sox in a really tough position. They've been forced to add players and move players around and it has hurt their production.
Ellsbury is probably the one that they miss most because he is a spark plug in their offense. His speed is surely missed in this lineup.
The first was a reason that the Red Sox would struggle to catch up to the Orioles, but this is a reason why the Orioles can stay above the Red Sox.
Baltimore's rotation has been extremely impressive in the early part of the season. Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen have shown why Dan Duquette was the right choice to take over the team with solid pitching performances. Jake Arrieta and Tommy Hunter have shown signs of improvement and even Brian Matusz is beginning to flash the ability that he had in 2010.
The key is consistency and the young rotation will have to show that they can continue to pitch the way they are right now. They are also supported by a pretty solid bullpen.
Segue. Speaking of bullpens, the Orioles currently have the best bullpen ERA in the majors at just 1.88. Wait, what? Let me just re-check that...The BALTIMORE ORIOLES have the best bullpen ERA in the majors—at 1.88.
Luis Ayala, Jim Johnson and Matt Lindstrom have combined for 29.1 scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Pedro Strop and Darren O'Day have let up runs, but not many. They have each looked pretty solid. Troy Patton hasn't been as great, but he's been valuable. Kevin Gregg has been the one weakness, but Buck understands that and just hasn't used him that often.
On the other side of the coin, the Red Sox have the worst bullpen in the majors, with a staggering 6.34 ERA. Alfredo Aceves took over as closer when Andrew Bailey got hurt and he has been awful. He has saved five of seven, but has more earned runs than innings pitched and a WHIP of 2.00. Mark Melancon and Vicente Padilla left other organizations to come to Boston, but the Red Sox may want to send them back.
Just look at the way things have gone since the end of 2011. The Orioles had a terrific September that ended with one of the most memorable games in Camden Yards history. The Red Sox collapsed in an epic fashion and were the losers of that same game. They sent their manager packing and had a complete regime change.
The 2012 season has picked up where the last one left off. The Red Sox tripped out of the gate and Bobby Valentine is making the wrong kinds of headlines. The Orioles have sprinted toward the top of the American League and are preparing to head to Boston with a better record than the home team.
If the O's carry on and the Red Sox can't recover, the year could end poorly again for Boston fans.