After starting 2-6, the Boston Red Sox did well to remember the old baseball cliche that the season is anything but a sprint.
Still, they’re not exactly disappointed to be back to .500 by Boston’s Marathon Monday.
Riding a four-game winning streak, the Red Sox will look to complete a four-game sweep of the visiting Baltimore Orioles on Monday in their traditional 11 a.m. game on Patriots Day in New England.
A return to cozy Fenway Park and a matchup with the pitching-starved Orioles have helped Boston (6-6) snap out of its early slump, but it was an outstanding performance on the mound that led the team to Sunday’s victory.
After scoring 24 runs in the first three games of their winning streak, the Red Sox got seven shutout innings from left-hander Jon Lester in a 2-1 win over Baltimore—their eighth straight victory against the Orioles at Fenway Park.
The Orioles (6-6) will have to be ready early if they hope to avoid a ninth straight defeat there and a fourth consecutive loss overall. Boston has won five in a row on Patriots Day, outscoring Texas and the Los Angeles Angels by a combined 15-5 the last two years.
The Red Sox’s annual home game on the third Monday in April starts before noon to coincide with the running of the Boston Marathon.
“It’s going to be early,” second baseman Dustin Pedroia told his team’s official Web site. “I usually wake up around that time.”
Masterson (0-0, 4.50 ERA) threw four shutout innings against Oakland on Tuesday, striking out six without a walk and allowing just two hits after Matsuzaka left the game with a tired arm.
He was 4-3 with a 3.67 ERA in nine starts as a rookie last year, but has served as a reliever since July, throwing four shutout innings against Baltimore.
“It’s not like you’re throwing somebody out there because he can do it,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “This guy is good. He just has the ability to be versatile.”
The Orioles will hope for an improvement from Mark Hendrickson (1-1, 3.00) after the left-hander gave up nine runs—two earned—and seven hits in 3 2-3 innings of a 19-6 loss at Texas on Wednesday.
Having spent most of his career in the AL East with Tampa Bay and Toronto, Hendrickson has an 8.56 career ERA against the Red Sox, including an 0-4 record and 12.33 ERA in his last four starts at Fenway.
Boston designated hitter David Ortiz, however, is just 4-for-19 without an extra-base hit against Hendrickson, and his numbers overall this season are even worse as he tries to bounce back from a wrist injury.
After going 0-for-4 on Sunday, he’s hitting .170 with 14 strikeouts in 47 at-bats, and his .191 slugging percentage is third-lowest in the majors.
“He gets frustrated like anybody else, but he’s still very positive,” Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan said. “He has the right attitude that it’s only going to be a matter of time.”
Baltimore’s offense has been much better, averaging more than six runs going into Sunday’s game. But they didn’t manage an extra-base hit against the Red Sox, and may be without one of their hottest hitters.
Outfielder Adam Jones’ status for Monday’s game is unclear after he left Sunday with a sore hamstring. Jones is hitting .372 with 12 RBIs.