The Red Sox opened as -140 favorites on MLB odds for Game 1 against the Baltimore Orioles, with a total of 9 runs. Here's our free pick for Game 1 of 4 of their series.
The Red Sox didn't lose a season series to Baltimore from 2005-2011, including a 16-2 destruction in the 2009 season. However, the Orioles, the defending American League East champions, have now taken the season series three straight years, by 11-8 marks in the past two.
One big reason that Baltimore won the series last year was because of outfielder/DH Nelson Cruz as he hit .338 with four home runs and 15 RBIs against the Red Sox. The Orioles didn't re-sign the 2014 big-league home run champion this offseason. Maybe they should have as Cruz enters Friday having homered in five straight games with his new team, the Mariners. He leads the majors with six dingers. The current Oriole who hit Boston pitching best in 2014 was All-Star outfielder Adam Jones, one of the 10 best all-around players in the game. Jones hit .366 with four homers and 13 knocked in. Jones is having an MVP-caliber start to this season, batting .406 (fifth in AL), with four homers (second) and 11 RBIs (first). Pretty impressive considering the loss of Cruz and that catcher Matt Wieters and shortstop J.J. Hardy, two of the best in the majors at their position, haven't yet played this season due to injury. So why are guys pitching to Jones?
David Ortiz hurt Orioles pitching the most of any Red Sox last season, batting .361 with five homers and 12 RBIs. Dustin Pedroia hit .351 with five doubles. Mike Napoli struggled with a .153 average and 22 strikeouts (but nine RBIs). Big Papi is off to a slow start this season with a .188 average and 10 strikeouts. Napoli has been one of the worst hitters in baseball, batting just .129 with no homers or RBIs after a big spring. Xander Bogearts leads Boston with a .382 average and .447 on-base percentage. New Red Sox Hanley Ramirez is off to a good start with a .278 average and team-leading four homers and nine RBIs. Fellow newbie Pablo Sandoval is batting .306 but hasn't gone deep yet. He missed Wednesday's series finale vs. Washington after being hit in the foot Tuesday, but it's not serious and Sandoval should play.
It's each team's No. 5 starters. For the MLB Odds underdogs tonight, the Orioles, right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez gets the call. He had to win a spot in the rotation this spring after a disastrous 2014 season in which he was 6-9 with a 4.81 ERA and lost his rotation role. He was pretty good this spring and it carried over to his first start, as he held the Blue Jays to no runs on just one hit while striking out eight and walking one in a 7-1 win last Saturday. Quite possibly Jimenez's best start as an Oriole. Last year he was 0-1 with a 6.60 ERA in three starts against Boston and 0-0 with a 7.00 ERA in two starts at Fenway Park. Sandoval hits him well from their National League days, batting .324 with two homers and 11 RBIs in 34 at-bats. Ortiz is 2-for-11 with a homer. Pedroia is 7-for-17 with a double and four RBIs. Ramirez has just a single in nine at-bats off him.
Red Sox starter Joe Kelly began the year on the disabled list with a strained right biceps injury but looked fine in his season debut. Kelly beat the Yankees in the Bronx, allowing one run on one hit over seven innings, striking out eight and walking two. Kelly retired the final 17 batters he faced. Last season, Kelly made two starts against the Orioles and was 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA. O's batters hit just .184 off him. Travis Snider has faced him the most of any Oriole, going 3-for-11 with a double and walk. Jones is 0-for-3 against Kelly. The Sox could use a good outing as they rank 13th in the AL with a 4.75 team ERA. Starters only it's a ghastly 6.16 ERA.
MLB Free Picks: Neither pitcher is as good as he showed in the opener so go 'over' at 5Dimes (8.5 -103). Lean Boston. The Sox are 5-1 in their past six at home against a right-handed starter. The 'over' is 5-0 in Boston's past five at home.