Once a troubling question mark for the Boston Red Sox, the third spot in their postseason rotation now appears safe in the hands of Clay Buchholz(notes). Thanks in part to Boston’s dominance of the Baltimore Orioles, it appears an increasingly safe bet that the Red Sox will get to put their postseason rotation on display in October.
Buchholz tries to win his fifth straight decision and help the Red Sox continue their mastery of the Orioles on Friday night when Boston opens a weekend series against the Orioles at Camden Yards.
Boston (86-59) leads Texas by six games for the AL wild card - a grip it strengthened by winning the first seven contests of its just-completed eight-game homestand. The winning streak began Sept. 8 with a 10-0 rout of Baltimore in which Buchholz (5-3, 3.66 ERA) earned the win. The Red Sox beat the Orioles 7-5 the following day for a two-game sweep, improving to 13-2 in the season series after their fifth consecutive defeat of Baltimore overall.
Boston is averaging 7.1 runs and batting .332 versus the Orioles in 2009.
While the Red Sox boast a potent lineup and an excellent 1-2 punch atop the rotation in Josh Beckett(notes) and Jon Lester(notes), the third starter’s spot became a concern in August as Tim Wakefield(notes) and Daisuke Matsuzaka(notes) both battled injuries while veterans John Smoltz(notes) and Brad Penny(notes) pitched so poorly the club released them.
Into that void stepped Buchholz, who has won four straight decisions and is 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA over his last four starts. The 25-year-old right-hander limited the Orioles to three hits and one walk in seven innings earlier this month. He threw seven more strong innings Sunday against Tampa Bay, limiting the Rays to one run, though he failed to earn the decision in Boston’s 3-1 victory.
The Red Sox have won the last six games started by Buchholz, who is 3-2 with a 4.75 ERA in six appearances against the Orioles including a no-hitter in Boston on Sept. 1, 2007. However, he’s 1-1 with an 11.57 ERA in three games - two starts - at Camden Yards.
He’ll try to help Boston bounce back after seeing its win streak snapped in the finale of its homestand. The Red Sox fell 4-3 to the AL West-leading Angels on Thursday, when Howie Kendrick’s(notes) bloop hit off Billy Wagner(notes) broke a ninth-inning tie.
“He’s much improved,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona told the team’s official Web site. “He’s doing a lot better.”
Francona’s club could certainly use Youkilis, who is batting .453 with six homers and 16 RBIs in 14 games against the Orioles in 2009.
Baltimore (60-86) split four home games with Tampa Bay this week, ending the series on a down note Thursday night with a 3-0 defeat. Michael Aubrey(notes) had two of the Orioles’ four hits, including a double.
The Orioles will send Jeremy Guthrie(notes) (10-14, 5.06) to the mound to open this series. The right-hander was Baltimore’s opening-day starter, and despite giving up a league-high 30 homers is the staff’s lone 10-game winner for the second straight season.
Guthrie has won three of his last five starts, with the two exceptions losses to the Yankees. He gave up five runs and a season-high 12 hits in 5 2-3 innings of Sunday’s 13-3 loss in the Bronx.
Guthrie is 1-4 with a 4.74 ERA in his career against the Red Sox, including 0-2 with an 8.00 ERA in three starts this season.
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