As the Orioles begin their final road trip of the season tonight, they have clearly played much better on the road in 2020 than in 2019. Of course, there have been many fewer road games to play.
But last year’s O’s club went 29-52 (.358) and won just five of 26 road series, going 5-17-4. This year’s club is 10-11 (.476) on the road and has won three of seven road series, going 3-3-1.
The Orioles will play the next three nights at Fenway Park in Boston and will end the year over the weekend with three games in Buffalo versus the Toronto Blue Jays.
John Means fanned 12 over 5 2/3 innings as the Orioles beat Tampa Bay 2-1 on Sunday to avoid a five-game sweep. The Orioles improved to 23-31 and won for just the third time in 13 games. Baltimore pitching fanned 16 batters, one short of the club record for a nine-inning game. In a low-scoring series, the Orioles were outscored 19-11 in the five games against the Rays.
Orioles pitching has recorded an ERA of 3.60 over the last 18 games, reducing the team ERA for the season from 4.71 to 4.36, which ranks eighth in the American League. The O’s are ninth in rotation ERA at 4.75 and seventh in bullpen ERA at 3.94.
Baltimore rotation pitchers have allowed one earned run or less in 10 of the past 17 games with an ERA of 3.55 in that span. In the last three games of the Tampa Bay series, the O’s ‘pen threw 9 1/3 scoreless innings allowing three hits with 12 strikeouts.
Boston is 20-34 and in fifth place in the American League East, three games behind the Orioles. Boston is 4-3 over the last seven games, 8-7 over 15 and 14-16 in its last 30 games. The Red Sox have gone 4-19 versus Atlanta, the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay, and 16-15 against everyone else.
The Orioles are 4-3 in the season series against Boston, including a 2-1 record on the road. These clubs have split their last 16 games. But over a longer stretch, the Red Sox are 9-3-3 in the last 15 series against the Orioles since September 2017. They are 34-14 versus Baltimore in that time.
The Red Sox are 9-19 at home in 2020, 12-25 against the AL East and 8-11 this month. Boston starting pitchers, like the Orioles, have been much better lately. Boston starters are 5-2 with a 3.25 ERA in the last 15 games.
Left-hander Keegan Akin (1-1, 3.38 ERA) will be making his fifth start and first against Boston. He pitched five scoreless innings with nine strikeouts on Wednesday against Atlanta. In his four O’s starts, he is 1-1 with a 2.35 ERA. Akin got knocked out in the first inning at Yankee Stadium, but in his other three starts has allowed two unearned runs over 14 2/3 innings with seven walks to 23 strikeouts.
Lefty batters have hit just .071 against him with an OPS of .276. Right-handed batters are hitting .232/.713. Opponents are hitting .125 (2-for-16) against him when batting with runners in scoring position.
Akin is using his fastball 60 percent of the time at an average velocity of 92.2 mph, per FanGraphs.com. Opponents hit .186 against that pitch. He is using his changeup 18 percent and getting a rate of 38 percent whiffs when opponents offer at that pitch. He uses his slider 12 percent and curveball 10 percent.
Right-hander Nick Pivetta (0-0, 15.88) will make his debut for Boston. He allowed 10 runs over 5 2/3 innings earlier in the year for Philadelphia. Then, on Aug. 21, he was traded to Boston with Connor Seabold for pitchers Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman.
Pivetta has been building up innings at Boston’s alternate site. He has not pitched in the majors since a game on Aug. 10 for Philly versus Atlanta where he allowed six runs in one-third of an inning. Pivetta has been a team’s top 30 prospect four times. He was Philly’s No. 16 at the end of 2016 and No. 12 a year later.
Outfielder Austin Hays has four multi-hit games in eight games since returning from the injured list on Sept. 14, hitting .333 (9-for-27) with five runs scored in this stretch.
Ryan Mountcastle ranks first among AL rookies (minimum 110 plate appearances) in OBP (.389) and OPS (.919), second in batting average (.330) and slugging (.552), third in multi-hit games (11), fifth in hits (33), tied for fifth in RBIs (21) and tied for sixth in home runs (5). He is hitting .370 (10-for-27) with runners in scoring position and .400 (4-for-10) with RISP and two outs.