This time, veteran right-hander Paul Byrd would settle for starting Boston’s September off with a victory when the Red Sox open a three-game set against the visiting Orioles on Monday night.
Clay Buchholz struck out nine Baltimore batters while pitching his gem in a 10-0 win last Sept. 1, but the Orioles likely won’t see Buchholz this week, as the young right-hander is in the minor leagues after going 2-9 with a 6.75 ERA this year for Boston.
Boston (79-57) is still in good position to make the playoffs, though it lost ground on AL East-leading Tampa Bay this weekend despite taking two of three from another division leader.
After a 4-2 defeat to the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox on Sunday, Boston fell 5 1/2 games behind the Rays in the East. It has Baltimore (63-73) to thank for that, as the Orioles allowed 34 runs in three games while being swept in St. Petersburg over the weekend.
The Red Sox, who’ve won four straight series and went 18-9 in August, lead Minnesota by 2 1/2 games in the wild-card standings, an edge they’ll hope to stretch on Monday while the Twins are idle.
“We’re playing good baseball,” Boston’s Dustin Pedroia told his team’s official Web site. “We’ve just got to continue it. We’ve got 25, 26 games left. We just need to continue to play this way, and we’ll be fine.”
Pedroia has been especially impressive, going 9-for-12 in the series against the White Sox to take the lead in the AL batting race at .326. He also leads the majors in runs scored and hits.
Byrd (9-11, 4.55 ERA), meanwhile, has delivered wins in his last two starts, including a victory at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday, when he allowed two runs in six innings of an 11-3 victory.
The right-hander is 6-1 with a 2.61 ERA since the All-Star break, though the first four victories came while he was with Cleveland. He hasn’t faced the Orioles this year and hasn’t beaten them since 2001, going 1-4 with a 4.15 ERA in six career starts.
Baltimore’s Aubrey Huff is 6-for-12 with two home runs against Byrd, and Huff enters Monday’s game with a hot bat. Huff - hitting .311 with 30 homers and 98 RBIs this year - has multiple hits in four consecutive games, going 9-for-16 (.563) with two homers, four doubles and seven RBIs over that span.
It hasn’t much helped the Orioles, whose pitching has been woeful of late. Baltimore allowed at least 10 runs in each game at Tampa Bay, and the staff has a 6.13 ERA since the All-Star break - easily the worst in the AL.
Orioles pitchers walked 25 and hit six batters in the series against the Rays.
“In an understatement, not very pretty,” Baltimore manager Dave Trembley said. “Not real pleased, you’ve got to sit there and watch 180 pitches everyday. I’d rather have the fastball thrown over the plate and have people hit it instead of giving runs away like that. It will be addressed.”
Garrett Olson (8-6, 6.38) was certainly part of the problem before he was sent to Triple-A Norfolk on Aug. 21. He went 0-1 with a 13.06 ERA in his last three major league starts, walking seven and allowing 20 hits in 10 1-3 innings over that span.
Olson, who’s 0-3 with a 7.36 ERA in five career starts against Boston, will be recalled from the minors for the start. With rosters expanding, Baltimore will also activate center fielder Adam Jones from the disabled list.
In each of their last five series at Fenway Park, the Orioles have won the opening game only to drop the next two. Boston leads the overall season series 9-6 in 2008.