After a sluggish April, the Boston Red Sox offense appears to be heating up in May. That could be bad news for the rest of the AL East.
The Red Sox, who have scored at least six runs in each game this month, seek their fourth win in five games Saturday when they continue their weekend series with the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park.
Boston (17-12) ended April tied for the division lead despite batting just .256 as a team and scoring three or fewer runs in 10 of its first 25 games. That was particularly surprising for a team which led the major leagues in runs scored in each of the past three seasons.
Since opening a homestand on Monday, though, the lineup has enjoyed a resurgence. The Red Sox have plated 26 runs and batted .331 to win three of four contests. After batting just .226 in April with runners in scoring position, Boston is batting .367 in RBI situations since the start of May.
A couple of Red Sox hitters broke out of slumps in the sixth inning of Friday’s 6-3 series-opening victory. Shortstop Alex Gonzalez, mired in a 2-for-20 slump, doubled home Mike Lowell with the game-tying run to raise his average to .190.
Three batters later with the bases loaded, designated David Ortiz snapped an 0-for-11 skid with a bases-clearing double to put Boston ahead to stay in its ninth straight victory over the Orioles.
“I’ve been begging for a hit. I’ve been fighting so much,” said Ortiz, whose 415 RBIs since joining the Red Sox in 2003 lead the AL. “You just forget about the at-bat before and go back and fight for the next one.”
Lowell doubled three times Friday, giving him five in the last two games and a major league-leading 16 this season. The third baseman is batting .476 with 10 RBIs, nine runs scored and eight doubles over his last 11 contests.
Red Sox starter Tim Wakefield (1-4, 3.89 ERA) faces the only team he has defeated this season as he looks to snap a four-start winless streak. The knuckleballer is 0-3 in his last four outings despite allowing no more than three earned runs in any of them.
He limited the New York Yankees to three runs over seven innings on Monday but did not receive a decision in Boston’s 7-3 win. Wakefield’s lone win this year came on April 9 at Baltimore when he allowed just one unearned run in six innings of Boston’s 4-1 win.
“I played with him for three years and faced him a lot,” Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar said after that contest. “It’s a 50-50 thing when you’re facing a knuckleballer. You just have to keep battling and take your hacks.”
Millar, who played the last three seasons in Boston, returned to Fenway Park Friday for the first time since signing with the Orioles (14-17). He went 2-for-3 with a run scored and received a 30-second standing ovation in his first plate appearance, four days after the same fans booed former Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon in his return as a Yankee.
“I think the fans here in Boston appreciate the below average ability guys,” Millar said.
After winning his first four starts of the season for Baltimore, Erik Bedard (4-1, 3.58) takes the mound for his third shot at his fifth win. He yielded two runs and seven hits in six innings and left with a lead Monday against Toronto, but wound up with no decision in a 9-7 Orioles defeat.
The left-hander is 1-2 with a 6.39 ERA in five games including four starts versus the Red Sox.