Baltimore (63-90) at Boston (88-66)

Cloudy Currently: Boston, MA
Temp: 77° F
  • Game info: 7:10 pm EDT Tue Sep 20, 2011
  • TV: MASN, NESN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The Boston Red Sox stopped their AL wild-card lead from shrinking further with one of their best offensive displays of the season.

Pitching continues to be another matter.

The desperate Red Sox turn to injury-prone left-hander Erik Bedard(notes) as they continue their series with the last-place Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night.

Boston (88-66) leads Tampa Bay by two games for the wild card with eight to play in the regular season - two fewer than the Rays.

The Red Sox held a commanding nine-game lead over the Rays late last month, but losing 14 of 19 in September has changed the race dramatically.

“We need to have fun,” outfielder Conor Jackson(notes) said. “We’ve been stressing out. We just need to go out and play baseball like when we were 12 years old and have fun.”

After dropping the first game of Monday’s doubleheader 6-5, Boston had more fun in the nightcap by beating Baltimore 18-9. The Red Sox matched their season highs for both runs and hits (20), and had three homers including a Jackson grand slam.

Dustin Pedroia(notes) and Jed Lowrie(notes) also had four RBIs apiece. Pedroia is batting .430 with seven homers and 33 RBIs in his last 33 home games against Baltimore - 27 of them Boston victories.

“We’re grinding,” Pedroia told the team’s official website. “We don’t care (how). We’ve just got to win. That’s it.”

The Red Sox have also won six of seven at Fenway against Baltimore this year behind a .365 team average and 9.0 runs per game. However, their pitching staff has become a problem down the stretch.

Boston’s has a 6.09 staff ERA this month, and Monday’s starters Kyle Weiland(notes) and John Lackey(notes) combined to surrender 14 runs and 16 hits in nine innings of the doubleheader.

Bedard (4-7, 3.45 ERA), a member of the Orioles from 2002-07, will try to provide Boston with an improved effort on the mound, but could be on a strict pitch count in his return from a lat strain that has sidelined him since Sept. 3. Manager Terry Francona isn’t revealing how he’ll handle the left-hander’s outing.

“I don’t know that we really want to tell the other team that, to be honest with you,” Francona said. “We need to recognize that he’s probably not going to be out there for eight (innings), so, you know, no, I mean, we’re going to try to win. We have enough pitching where we’ll be OK.”

Bedard hasn’t lasted longer than six innings in any of his six starts since joining Boston in a seven-player deal with Seattle at the July 31 trade deadline. He’s gone 1-2 with a 3.66 ERA in those outings.

Bedard earned his lone win in a Red Sox uniform in his last start Sept. 3, allowing three runs in six innings of a 12-7 victory over AL West-leading Texas.

Bedard is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 16 2-3 innings over three career starts versus Baltimore, his original major league club.

Losers of seven of 10 on the road, the Orioles (63-90) will give the ball to Rick VandenHurk(notes) (0-0, 6.00) for his first start against the Red Sox.

The right-hander hasn’t been used since struggling through 53 pitches over 2 1-3 innings in his only start of the season Sept. 10, allowing three runs and three hits - two homers - but not getting a decision in a 5-4 loss at Toronto.

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Starting Pitchers

R. van den Hurk Pit vs. E. Bedard LAD
0-0 Record 5-9
8.00 ERA 3.62
7 K 125
8 BB 48
2.22 WHIP 1.28

Scoreboard

Tuesday, Sep 20