Baltimore (41-55) at Boston (57-39)

Cloudy Currently: Boston, MA
Temp: 67° F
  • Game info: 1:35 pm EDT Sun Jul 26, 2009
  • TV: MASN, NESN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Boston Red Sox finally seem turned back in the right direction, and now they’re hoping John Smoltz(notes) can follow suit.

The struggling 42-year-old will try to lead Boston to a three-game home sweep of Baltimore on Sunday, and it may help that the Orioles have lost their last 11 games at Fenway Park.

Boston’s five-game losing streak to close its road trip dropped the club 2 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees in the AL East, but the Red Sox (57-39) picked up a game Saturday with their second straight win over the last-place Orioles.

After a lackluster showing from their normally potent lineup to start the season’s second half, Boston’s bats finally showed some life in Saturday’s 7-2 victory, with David Ortiz(notes) hitting a three-run home run and newcomer Adam LaRoche(notes) adding a two-run shot for his first hit with the team.

It was the first time the Red Sox had scored more than four runs since their 6-0 win over Kansas City on July 12.

“I don’t think we were pressing tonight,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “Last week, we were saying guys were trying to swing for a three-run homer. Every team goes through periods where things aren’t going very well and you try too hard.”

Boston, which has won five straight at Fenway to move to 33-14 there, also got a strong performance from left-hander Jon Lester(notes) on Saturday, something that has been rare for Smoltz (1-3, 6.31 ERA) in his first five starts with his new club.

Smoltz has often struggled to prevent a big inning since coming off the disabled list June 25. That was especially true Monday at Texas, when he allowed one run through the first five innings before permitting five runs in the sixth.

“I’m frustrated,” Smoltz said. “I’m pleased with the way I’m throwing the baseball, but the results have been awful. They haven’t matched the effort.”

Texas’ Michael Young(notes) praised the former Cy Young Award winner, who spent his entire career with Atlanta before attempting a return from shoulder surgery this year with Boston.

“He was throwing a great game,” Young said. “He still has good life on his fastball, has a really tight bite on his slider. … Fortunately, we strung together some good at-bats and broke through with a big inning.”

Smoltz was looking good at Baltimore on June 30, allowing a run and three hits in four innings, before he was forced from the game by a rain delay. The Orioles eventually erased a 10-1 deficit in that game and won 11-10 for their only victory in nine games against Boston this year.

The Red Sox have won 15 of their last 17 against Baltimore, including the last 11 meetings at Fenway Park.

“It’s not from a lack of effort, that’s for sure. We’ve played a lot of close games,” second baseman Brian Roberts(notes) said.

The Orioles (41-55) has also lost five straight games overall to fall to an AL-worst 15-34 on the road. They will turn to rookie David Hernandez(notes) (2-2, 3.55) to try to snap their various slides, and the right-hander has seemed up to the task lately.

Hernandez is coming off three straight quality starts, and he gave up one run and three hits in six innings Monday at Yankee Stadium. He retired 16 of the final 17 batters he faced in that game, a 2-1 Orioles loss.

“I thought he just really, really matured as a pitcher tonight,” manager Dave Trembley told the Orioles’ official Web site.

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Starting Pitchers

D. Hernández Ari vs. J. Smoltz StL
4-10 Record 3-8
5.42 ERA 6.35
68 K 73
46 BB 18
1.62 WHIP 1.45

Scoreboard

Sunday, Jul 26