What exactly is a “staff ace?”
A staff ace is not just expected to be the team’s best pitcher. He’s expected to be the guy the team can turn to when they need to come back from a loss. The staff ace is also expected to give the bullpen some time off, pitch deep into the game, heck at one time a team’s ace was expected to even pitch the occasional complete game (perish the thought!)
The Boston Red Sox don’t need David Price to hurl a complete game Monday afternoon. They are coming off a loss, through five games their bullpen has pitched 17.1 innings. Oh and the Red Sox are facing the lone undefeated team remaining in Major League Baseball.
The 5-0 Baltimore Orioles. The general feeling about the Orioles was that they were going to be a very good offensive baseball team, but lacked the pitching to compete for a playoff spot or divisional crown.
One week into the season, that hasn’t been the case.
Best team ERA in the American League? Orioles with 1.80. Opponents are hitting .211 against Baltimore pitchers, third lowest in the league. Orioles pitchers have walked only 13 batters, tied for third lowest in the AL. The starters have been good, the bullpen has been lights-out.
Orioles relievers have pitched 21.1 innings with an ERA of 1.27 and opponents are hitting just .176.
Then there’s the offense.
As absurd as this might sound, the Orioles starting lineup features six players who have hit 30 or more home runs in a single season.
Manny Machado, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo and Pedro Alvarez have all accomplished the feat. By contrast the Red Sox every day starting lineup features a total of two players (David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez) who have hit 30 or more home runs in a single season, that number gets bumped to three when Chris Young is inserted into the lineup (Young hit 32 home runs as a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007.)
The Orioles have power and then some. Davis has won the league home run crown in two of the last three seasons, he cracked 53 long balls back in 2013. Trumbo hit 32 home runs in 2012 and then 34 in 2013. He’s got the power to hit more than those totals and playing a full season in a hitter-friendly ballpark like Camden Yards may prove to be exactly what he needs to unleash his full power potential.
Manny Machado is 23 years old, last year he hit a career-high 35 home runs, but given his age and seemingly limitless talent, that number does not feel like peak power performance.
Adam Jones hit more than 30 home runs in both 2012 and 2013. He only hit 27 home runs last year, but he also missed 25 games due to injury. He’s still only 30 years old, so don’t be shocked if he exceeds 30 home runs in the not-too-distant future.
In 2013 Pedro Alvarez hit 36 home runs and drove in 100 as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Now he’s in this loaded Orioles lineup, he’s only 29 years old, and there’s no reason to think he won’t be able to put up some impressive power numbers. Finally there’s J.J. Hardy, the veteran shortstop won’t be mentioned in the same breath as Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, Francisco Lindor or Trevor Story, but he is a legitimate starting shortstop who hit 30 home runs in 2011 and has hit 20 or more long balls in five separate seasons.
So the Red Sox and David Price have their work cut out for them, not just Monday afternoon, but for all three games (weather permitting) of this first home series of 2016.
The Orioles will start Yovani Gallardo Monday, followed by Mike Wright and Ubaldo Jimenez. Price is followed by Clay Buchholz and Joe Kelly. Not only is this the first home series for the Red Sox, it is also the first road trip of the season for the Orioles.
Monday’s Red Sox starting lineup features the return of Brock Holt, Holt sat against the Jays on Sunday, Monday he’s back patrolling left field. Jackie Bradley Jr returns to center field, and David Ortiz is back at DH.
First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 pm ET. AccuWeather forecasts predict a 40 percent chance of a rain delay, but the game is expected to be played.