BOSTON – Everyone knew that the American League East would be a battle this season, and that’s certainly shaping up to be the case.
Heading into Sunday, all five teams in the division are separated by just two games. The teams are constantly shuffling within the standings.
And here in Boston, with the Red Sox coming off their third World Series title in a decade, it's not too soon for fans here to start panicking.
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The Red Sox came into Saturday’s game with a 7-10 record, and in the first few weeks of the season, losses seem magnified when you’re getting further away from .500.
Orioles fans felt it in the season’s first week, when the club opened the season 1-4 before getting a masterpiece from Chris Tillman to avoid a sweep on the road against the Detroit Tigers. If they lost that game, it wasn’t the end of the season, but to some it might have seemed that way.
Every game seems to count a little bit more in the AL East.
Whether that played into Saturday afternoon’s verbal exchange between Red Sox catcher David Ross and Orioles right-hander Bud Norris is unclear, but Boston needed a win Saturday to prevent them from going four games under .500.
It seemed like Ross was more irked by three pitches that came in high and tight because he had two concussions last year.
Give catcher Matt Wieters a lot of credit for defusing the situation. Once he noticed Ross yelling at Norris, he jumped in front of Ross and settled him down.
Knowing he was dealing with a fellow catcher, Wieters undoubtedly told Ross to realize that Norris wouldn’t be trying to hit Ross with the go-ahead run on base when Ross was trying to drop a sacrifice bunt.
Replays showed that Wieters didn’t have to say much -- his imposing 6-foot-5 frame in Ross' face probably helped -- before Ross nodded “OK” repeatedly. By the time both benches had cleared, Wieters had the situation handled.
“Wieters being the force that he is back there, it was great for him to step up and say something,” Norris said. “And as a catcher, these guys have a better IQ of the game, and I think Wiet-y knew what was going on, and he stood right in front of him, which was great. That gave me an opportunity to calm down and get back on the mound and pitch from there."
We’ll see what happens from here. The Orioles play two more games here at Fenway Park, including tonight’s ESPN Sunday Night Baseball game and tomorrow’s annual Patriots Day game with the Boston Marathon.
-- Tonight will be a big start for Orioles right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez, who is 0-3 with a 7.31 ERA in his first three starts with his new club.
Jimenez is 1-3 with a 10.27 ERA in five career starts against the Red Sox, and he allowed seven runs and nine hits over 4 1/3 innings over his only previous career start at Fenway Park on May 11, 2012.
Even though those numbers aren’t very good, Jimenez said he did a lot of work with pitching coach Dave Wallace and bullpen coach Dom Chiti since his last start in an attempt to refine his mechanics. Read more about that here.
Jimenez had an 11.25 ERA through his first three starts last year, but began turning his season around in his fourth start of the season.
We will see if he can do that again tonight.
-- Triple-A Norfolk right-hander Mike Wright has a 1.59 ERA in three starts this season after allowing one run and four hits over seven innings Saturday night.
While Wright is pitching well in Norfolk, he owns some interesting splits. Left-handers are hitting .132 against him, but right-handers are batting .400 against him. You don’t see those kind of reverse splits very often.
-- At Double-A Bowie, Cuban outfielder Dariel Alvarez’s 15-game hitting streak was snapped when he went 0-for-4 Saturday. Alvarez is hitting .308 with seven doubles, one homer and 13 RBIs in 16 games.
He’s also an eye-popping 7-for-15 with runners in scoring position. It will be interesting to see what the Orioles do if Alvarez continues his hot hitting in Double-A because there is a logjam of outfielders in Triple-A.