After snapping an embarrassing slump in their last outing, the Boston Red Sox look to make up ground in the AL East race when they continue their three-game series with the Baltimore Orioles Saturday at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox (66-48) beat the Orioles 9-2 in Friday’s series opener, ending a five-game losing streak—the club’s longest since May 1-4, 2004. The slide included two defeats to Tampa Bay and a three-game sweep against Kansas City, the teams with the two worst records in the AL.
The Red Sox had dropped three games behind the New York Yankees in the division before picking up a game Friday.
“There were a lot of reasons for us not to be real upbeat today,” manager Terry Francona said. “We didn’t let that happen. That’s a very good sign.”
The Red Sox have won 14 of their last 15 games against the Orioles dating to last season. David Wells earned the victory Friday in his third start since coming off a third stint on the disabled list, and the Red Sox scored seven runs in the third inning, matching their biggest inning of the season.
“I think we understand this is a very important part of our season,” said Mike Lowell, who was hit in the helmet by a fastball in the first inning before picking up an RBI, a run and an into-the-stands catch. “I don’t think anyone was satisfied or happy with how the road trip turned out and I think we wanted to make a conscious effort to make a statement that we’re not going to fold in that situation.”
Manny Ramirez extended his hitting streak Friday to 26 games—the longest active streak in the majors and the seventh-longest in Red Sox history.
Kris Benson (9-9, 4.71 ERA), who is returning after a stint on the disabled list with right elbow tendinitis, will look to help Baltimore rebound on Saturday. He has not won since June 28 and had lost four straight starts coming into his last outing on July 25, when he gave up four runs and eight hits in six innings of Baltimore’s 7-5 loss to the Royals.
“We’re going to watch him—there’s no question,” manager Sam Perlozzo said of Benson’s return. “But he seems to be fine, and I don’t really foresee any problems. I might have to see how far his pitch-count is and how he feels if it gets up a little bit high.”
Benson has lost both of his career starts against Boston, posting a 13.50 ERA in those contests. He gave up nine runs in 4 1-3 innings of a 10-3 loss at Fenway on May 7.
Boston will counter with Jason Johnson (3-11, 5.96), who allowed one earned run and three hits in six innings of the Red Sox’s 7-6, 10-inning loss at Tampa Bay on Sunday. The start was his second since being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket and fourth since being traded from Cleveland to Boston.
Before Sunday, Johnson had lost his previous seven starts, registering a 6.94 ERA over that span. He has not won since May 28 at Detroit.
Johnson pitched for Baltimore from 1999-2003, going 34-53 with a 4.84 ERA in 133 appearances, including 120 starts. He is 4-1 with a 3.04 ERA in seven career starts against his former team, including a 15-1 win on April 18.