The Baltimore Orioles come to Fenway for a three-game set, beginning tonight. The Birds are in second place in the AL East and seven games over .500 (16-9), while the Sox continue to toil in the basement (11-13). Below are my thoughts and some things to look for over the course of the next three days.
—Dustin Pedroia is batting cleanup tonight. He is a career .397 hitter out of the four-hole. I like the move by Bobby Valentine.
—Dan Duquette returns to Yawkey Way as the GM of the Orioles. The Massachusetts native was fired by this ownership group in 2002. Theo Epstein attracts the majority, if not all, of the credit for winning the World Series in 200 (from a front office perspective, of course), but it should not be forgotten that the Duke is responsible for bringing in many of the major contributors to that team. It’s good to see a guy who obviously loves the game of baseball get back in the industry in a major way.
—Don’t bet on baseball. But if you’re going to despite my advice, bet on the Red Sox tonight. Jon Lester is 14-0 against the O’s. The offense has beat up on left handed pitching in the early going. Wei-Yin Chen is a rookie southpaw.
—Here are your pitching matchups, courtesy of the Boston Globe’s Peter Abraham:
—Buchholz is the pitcher to monitor over the weekend. He needs a quality start. Another poor outing could seriously result in a demotion to Triple-A Pawtucket.
—Despite the Orioles’ impressive record, they are not a good team. The Red Sox need to take two out of three over the weekend. Anything less would be a failure.
—Will Middlebrooks will bat second tonight as he hopes to inject some energy in this veteran team. He looked good in his debut on Wednesday against the Athletics. Kevin Youkilis is still this team’s third baseman for 2012, but Middlebrooks is a purebred. The guy plays good defense and has shown the ability to hit a ton a very shallow position (third base). Red Sox fans will enjoy watching him play in the short term and especially in the future.
—Matt Wieters is the Orioles’ catcher and is an absolute stud. In 45 games against the local nine, Wieters has hit at a smooth .323 clip with three home runs. Red Sox pitchers will attempt to keep the young backstop at bay, but it won’t be easy.