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Red Sox Face Orioles in Baltimore: Fan Preview

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If the 57-59 Boston Red Sox want to make up ground in the wild card standings, they'll need a successful series against the 62-53 Baltimore Orioles from August 14 to 16. Baltimore leads the race for the American League's second wild card spot; the Red Sox have fallen to five and a half games back after going 4-8 to start the month. The Orioles will look for a strong finish to their ten-game homestand after winning five out of seven against the Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals.

The Red Sox' lineup will continue to look for some consistency against a beat up rotation and an excellent bullpen. Over their last seven games, the Red Sox have scored nine-plus runs three times and three or fewer runs four times. Though the Orioles' replacement starters have performed above expectations, their bullpen has been critical to their success. Orioles' relievers boast an outstanding 2.99 ERA and 2.41 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 385.2 innings on the season.

Pitching matchups:

August 14: Josh Beckett (4.97 ERA, 86/33 K/BB) vs. Wei-Yin Chen (3.79 ERA, 114/45 K/BB)

Beckett's disappointing season continued with another bad start against the Texas Rangers on August 8. After going 12 starts without allowing a home run, he gave up three to the Rangers for eight earned runs in five innings. One of Beckett's strongest games of the year came in his only start against Baltimore on June 6, when he gave up just two runs on five hits in eight innings. Chen made two starts against Boston in the first-half, combining for 12 hits, four earned runs, and eight strikeouts in 12 innings. His changeup has been his most effective pitch, and righties manage just a .237 average and .619 OPS against him.

August 15: Aaron Cook (4.70 ERA, 6/7 K/BB) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (3.42 ERA, 45/21 K/BB)

With Felix Doubront's innings closing in on a career-high, the Red Sox are skipping his next start and using Cook in his place. Cook made his first start of the year against the Orioles on May 5; it ended with a knee injury after 2.2 innings and six earned runs. Gonzalez has enjoyed an unexpectedly good start to his MLB career as a 28-year-old rookie. Through 55.1 innings, the home run ball has been his lone weakness; he has ten home runs allowed, but he's been fortunate enough for nine to be of the solo variety.

August 16: Clay Buchholz (4.24 ERA, 86/42 K/BB) vs. Chris Tillman (3.40 ERA, 30/12 K/BB)

Buchholz's latest gem made him the only Red Sox' starter with an above average ERA+. Since the All-Star break, he has just 27 hits, eight walks, and a 1.79 ERA in 45.1 innings. Tillman has been feast or famine through seven starts in 2012. He has two or fewer runs allowed in four starts with five-plus runs allowed in the remaining three starts. Thus far, he's improved on his strikeout and walk rates from previous stints in the majors with a 2.50 K/BB ratio in 39.2 innings.

Sources:

Baseball-Reference.com

Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Yahoo! Sports

MLB Stats, ESPN.com

FanGraphs.com

William Menna is a native New Englander and longtime Boston sports fan.

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