Baltimore (62-89) at Boston (87-65)

Cloudy Currently: Boston, MA
Temp: 51° F
  • Game info: 1:05 pm EDT Mon Sep 19, 2011
  • TV: MASN, NESN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Beating the Baltimore Orioles has been rather routine for the Boston Red Sox.

With a remaining schedule loaded with games against the last-place Orioles, maintaining that habit will be important if Boston is to return to the playoffs.

The Red Sox attempt to stop their free fall and create some breathing room in the AL wild-card race by continuing their dominance of Baltimore in Monday’s doubleheader at Fenway Park.

Boston (87-65) finds its playoff hopes hinging on the final 10 games of the regular season, and seven will be against the Orioles (62-89).

The Red Sox are 23-5 in their last 28 meetings with the Orioles at Fenway, winning all five there this year behind a .348 average, 11 homers and 8.0 runs per contest.

Boston owns an 8-3 overall advantage in the season series.

Facing Baltimore is a key chance for the Red Sox to improve a 4-13 September, which has dramatically impacted their playoff races.

That rough stretch has dropped Boston out of the AL East lead while reducing its cushion in the wild-card chase to two games over Tampa Bay. The club was nine games ahead of the Rays at the end of August.

The Red Sox, 4 1/2 games behind first-place New York, had their lead whittled down over the weekend by losing three of four to Tampa Bay - capped by Sunday’s 8-5 defeat.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to turn it around,” manager Terry Francona told the team’s official website. “I guess I choose to believe, knowing the guys down in the clubhouse like I do, we’ll meet this challenge and it will make us stronger. I guess that’s our best way to go about this.”

Some of Francona’s confidence could be based on facing the Orioles. The Red Sox appear to have a much more advantageous schedule compared to Tampa Bay’s season-ending stretch, which includes seven meetings with the Yankees - leaving Boston to seek help from its most bitter rival.

Francona could also use a better effort from Kyle Weiland(notes) (0-2, 7.58 ERA) in the opener of this twinbill.

The rookie right-hander is 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA in two starts against Baltimore, and he hasn’t pitched more than four innings in three of his four starts overall.

Weiland lasted three-plus innings Thursday, getting tagged for four runs with three coming on a homer in a 9-2 loss to the Rays. He threw just 61 pitches, allowing Boston to bring him back quickly.

“I’ve never come back on a fourth day, but usually I throw 90 or more pitches,” Weiland said.

John Lackey(notes) (12-12, 6.19) takes the mound in the nightcap looking for another strong effort against the Orioles. He’s won his last two starts against them - both at Fenway - while allowing one run in 13 2-3 innings.

The right-hander, however, has been struggling mightily during Boston’s rough stretch, going 0-3 with a 7.52 ERA in his last four starts - all Red Sox losses.

Baltimore had a four-game winning streak end with Sunday’s 11-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, but giving the ball to Jeremy Guthrie(notes) (8-17, 4.22) may be a good way to rebound even though he owns the most losses in the majors.

The right-hander has won his last two starts while yielding two runs and six hits with 15 strikeouts in 14 innings. He’s avoided becoming MLB’s first 18-game loser since Daniel Cabrera(notes) did it for the Orioles in 2007.

Guthrie was terrific against the Red Sox on July 19, holding them to two runs in seven innings of a 6-2 victory after going 0-8 with a 5.27 ERA in his previous 12 appearances in the series.

He’s 0-4 with a 5.86 ERA in eight career outings - seven starts - at Fenway.

Brian Matusz(notes) (1-7, 9.84) will start the nightcap for Baltimore, seeking a positive finish to a difficult year that’s included a lengthy stint on the disabled list and a demotion to the minors.

The left-hander hasn’t been called upon since surrendering five runs in 1 1-3 innings in the Orioles’ 11-10 loss at New York on Sept. 5. However, he’s 2-0 with a 1.90 ERA in his last four starts against Boston.

“Just being able to get another opportunity is a good feeling,” Matusz told the Orioles’ official website. “I’ve focused … working on everything, just getting my delivery back (and) getting back to having a good feeling with all my pitches, just settling in.”

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Starting Pitchers

J. Guthrie KC vs. K. Weiland Hou
9-17 Record 0-3
4.33 ERA 7.66
130 K 13
66 BB 12
1.34 WHIP 1.66

Scoreboard

Monday, Sep 19