BALTIMORE -- David Price is on the roster and Dustin Pedroia is not. There’s been a real baseball fight elsewhere that made the Orioles and Red Sox’ I-dare-you drama look even dumber. And Manny Machado is probably only cursing at himself these days -- he’s 4-for-34 (.118) in his last eight games with 11 strikeouts, no walks and no home runs.
This is already the fourth series this year between the second-place Red Sox (29-23) and third-place Orioles (27-24), but the circumstances have changed since their last go-around -- and the Sox have a huge opportunity.
SERIES OF NASTINESS
- Buck Showalter takes cheap shots at Red Sox
- Pedroia injured by Machado's takeout slide
- Barnes throws behind Machado's head
- O's Britton blasts Pedroia's leadership
- Drama continues as Bundy hits Betts with pitch
- Adam Jones target of racial slurs at Fenway
- Orioles catcher excited to 'get the hell out of Boston'
If everyone’s smart, the plunking war is over. No intentional hit batsmen. Not until someone mistakenly hits someone, anyway. At that point, these teams should just clear the benches like the Giants and Nats did. Unlike those teams, however, no one should do anything to earn a suspension. Yell and look angry to get it off your chest, but don’t throw a helmet.
The baseball should do the talking. There’s a different mood for the Sox these days after wins in 8 of their last 10 games, and it could add up to a very different tenor for this go-around with the Birds.
When the O’s won the finale of a four-game set at Fenway on May 4, they improved to 17-10, putting them 2 1/2 games ahead of the Sox. Baltimore won five more games consecutively from there.
Today, the Sox are two games back of the American League East-leading Yankees and sit in the top wild-card spot. The O’s? They’re 3 1/2 back of the Yanks.
From May 5 on, the Red Sox are tied for the fifth-best win percentage in the majors at .583. They went 14-10. The Orioles’ performance was just the opposite. They were 10-14, good for a .417 clip, the sixth-worst.
The chances anyone runs away with the American League East are slim. Not with the way rosters stand today.
That doesn’t lessen the opportunity at Camden Yards. The 4 1/2-game deficit the O’s carried into Wednesday, when they won over the Yanks, was their largest in the division this season. Catcher Welington Castillo just went on the disabled list. Outfielder Adam Jones has missed a little time with hip and ankle issues.
Before Wednesday’s series finale in Chicago, Sox manager John Farrell made it sound like Baltimore was out of sight. Yet it’s hard to think for both clubs, this series wasn’t proverbially circled.
“They’re important but I don’t look at them any other way. I haven’t even thought about Baltimore,” Farrell said.
For the Sox, this is the first of two big series in succession. They end this three-city road trip in New York against the Yanks next week.
But even the three-game series in Chicago has changed the Red Sox’ outlook, at least mildly. They were already feeling good about Brian Johnson. Now, Drew Pomeranz has turned in two consecutive good starts and Price is, at the least, back in the fold.
“Particularly with Drew,” Farrell said. “The last two starts are significant steps forward given to the ones previous. To his credit, he’s [pitched well]. And, yeah, anytime you’re adding David Price, a healthy David Price, it’s going to be a boost.
"The biggest thing is, as long as we can continue to even out the workload -- and I know we had two short starts here (five innings each by Price and Chris Sale) -- but when [our starters] start getting deeper into ballgames (Pomeranz pitched seven innings on Wednesday), it just allows that bullpen to come in fresh.”
One thing to consider: The Orioles have been particularly good at home (17-8). The Red Sox are 12-13 on the road. But Mookie Betts, on June 1 last year, hit a pair of home runs at Camden Yards -- a day after he hit three in the same stadium.
Some sort of slugfest might await, verbally or otherwise.