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The Red Sox are now up six games on the Rangers in the Wild Card, with a magic number of 12, after a very successful 7-1 homestand. This is the final road trip of the season, a 10-game swing beginning in Baltimore and Kansas City, two teams long out of the race, and ends in New York. If the Red Sox can keep winning and the Rangers keep sputtering, the Sox could lock up a playoff spot on this trip.
The Red Sox have owned the Orioles this season with a 13-2 record, including 5-1 at Camden Yards. Despite his team’s struggles against the Red Sox this season, O’s owner Peter Angelos must be happy to see the Red Sox coming to town since it means a good gate, even though you’ll see more red, white, and blue than orange and black.
Clay Buchholz’ (1-0, 11.0 IP, 10 ER, 15 H, 5 K, 1 BB vs BAL) two outings against Baltimore could not have been more different with the exception of the run support, which was plentiful in both outings. With a big lead given to him in Baltimore in August, he completed only four innings and let the Orioles back into the game, though the Red Sox won. In his recent start at Fenway, the Red Sox again gave him an early lead and Buchholz kept the door locked this time, throwing seven shutout innings for one of the wins in his current four decision win streak. Jeremy Guthrie (0-2, 18.0 IP, 19 R (16 ER), 25 H, 11 K, 9 BB vs BOS), who has been batting practice for the Red Sox, will oppose Buchholz.
Jon Lester (3-0, 21.1 IP, 2 ER, 17 H, 26 K, 4 BB vs BAL), who owns the Orioles and has not lost since July, takes on David Hernandez (1-2, 14.0 IP, 9 ER, 16 H, 9K, 6 BB vs BOS), who has looked worse each successive time the Red Sox have faced him. Daisuke Matsuzaka returned to the big club and had his best outing of the season against the Angels. He will have another chance to show if his comeback is for real against Jason Berken (0-2, 11.2 IP, 13 ER, 23 H, 6 K, 8 BB vs BOS). Berken’s rookie season has been underwhelming, but particularly troublesome against the Red Sox.
The Orioles pitching is so bad that it obscures that this offense is pretty decent and better than the Tigers, who is the likely favorite in the Central (but Detroit does have much better pitching). The Orioles have also exploded for 10 runs twice in this season series and both of those occurrences have come in Camden Yards. Matt Wieters is hitting a Ted Williams-like .406 against the Red Sox this season at 13-32, but has no home runs, only two RBI, and three runs in the series. Nick Markakis is hitting .373 with two home runs, 16 RBI, and seven runs and Nolan Reimold is at .333 with one long ball, four driven in, and six scores. That triumverate of youngsters shows that the series could feature more slugfests in the years to come.
The Orioles pitching staff is so horrible (worst in the AL, only above the lowly Nationals in all of MLB) that the Red Sox should have no problems getting guys on and scoring. Lester’s dominance over the O’s is nothing new, as he is 9-0 lifetime against the Birds and seems to improve every year. Buchholz fares much better at Fenway against these guys, so he has some demons to conquer here and I still consider Dice-K to be a wild card. He was not solid in all of his minor league starts, but certainly looked great against the Angels. The Red Sox will get some great pitching, but the offense should carry them to the sweep.