Baltimore (64-90) at Boston (88-67)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Boston, MA, US
Temp: 73° F
  • Game info: 7:10 pm EDT Wed Sep 21, 2011
  • TV: MASN, NESN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Hosting the last-place Baltimore Orioles appeared to give the Boston Red Sox a golden opportunity to solidify their hold on the AL wild card.

That hasn’t been the case, so Josh Beckett(notes) gets his turn to begin a reversal of Boston’s free fall.

Beckett looks to win a fifth straight decision Wednesday night when the Red Sox attempt to salvage a split of this four-game series with the pesky Orioles.

Boston (88-67) has won 24 of 31 meetings with Baltimore (64-90) at Fenway Park, but has lost two of the first three of this series following Tuesday’s 7-5 defeat.

“We should have never had that close of a game,” said right fielder Josh Reddick(notes), whose two-out error led to two of the Orioles’ four runs in the third. “`I kind of hurt the whole team from bottom to top.”

The Red Sox are 5-15 this month and that’s dramatically changed the team’s postseason chances, going from a contender for the AL East crown to clinging to the wild-card lead.

While the Yankees all have all but locked up the division title, Boston has seen its lead in the wild-card race cut to two games over Tampa Bay and 3 1/2 over Los Angeles.

Boston received some help from its most bitter rival as the Yankees defeated the Rays 5-0 on Tuesday in the first of seven meetings over the final nine days of the season.

Poor starting pitching continues to hamper the Red Sox, whose starters have compiled a 10.80 ERA in this series.

Having Beckett (13-5, 2.50 ERA) on the mound should help change that.

The right-hander is 4-0 with a 3.03 ERA in his past five starts, and will try to win five straight decisions for the first time since a seven-game stretch from May 5-June 9, 2009.

He’s been even better at home, going 6-1 with a 2.30 ERA in 13 starts.

Pitching for the first time in 11 days due to a sprained right ankle, Beckett allowed three runs - two earned - and seven hits with seven strikeouts in six innings of a 4-3 win over Tampa Bay on Friday.

“We need him to be Beckett. We don’t need him to be Beckett in name only,” manager Terry Francona said. “Despite what’s been happening, we want him to have a chance to pitch effectively. So we weren’t going to pitch him unless he was ready.”

Beckett has won his last two home starts against Baltimore despite a 4.91 ERA. He gave up three runs and seven hits in five innings of a 10-3 win July 8.

The Orioles have already clinched a fourth consecutive last-place finish in the East, but they’re gaining inspiration from playing spoiler.

Starting on Sept. 7 with a win over New York, Baltimore is 8-3 against the Yankees, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles and Boston, all teams in the playoff hunt.

“Just the emotion of the games, I think, plays well for us,” manager Buck Showalter said. “We kind of, more than anything, just have some envy. At some point we want to be in their position.”

Showalter will give the ball to Tommy Hunter(notes) (3-3, 5.31), who tossed a gem in an 8-3 win over the Angels on Friday. The right-hander scattered seven hits in seven shutout innings to earn his first win in four starts.

Hunter is 2-1 in four starts against the Red Sox despite an 8.31 ERA.

Robert Andino(notes) had three hits Tuesday, including a go-ahead three-run double off closer Jonathan Papelbon(notes) in the eighth.

“We ain’t coming out here to lose. We’re coming out here to just play ball, you know?” said Andino, 3 for 6 off Beckett. “Just go out there and go forward. We’ve got nothing to lose, so we just go out there and have fun.”

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Starting Pitchers

T. Hunter CLE vs. J. Beckett LAD
4-4 Record 13-7
4.68 ERA 2.89
45 K 175
15 BB 52
1.36 WHIP 1.03

Scoreboard

Wednesday, Sep 21