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Red Sox-Orioles Preview

AP - Sports

For years the Baltimore Orioles served as personal punching bags for the Boston Red Sox.

Now, it appears those roles have been reversed.

A seventh consecutive series win against the slumping Red Sox will be the Orioles' goal Saturday night at Camden Yards.

Beating up on the Orioles was common while they struggled through 15 straight losing seasons, but few teams did it as well as the Red Sox, who won 55 of 72 over Baltimore from 2006-09.

The tide began to turn at the end of 2011, when Baltimore won four of the final five meetings, including a memorable season-ending victory to knock Boston out of playoff contention. That seemed to springboard the Orioles into 2012, when their run of futility ended with 93 wins and the franchise's first playoff appearance since 1997.

A big part of that success was a 13-5 record against the Red Sox. Baltimore (58-46) has continued that prosperity with six wins in eight meetings this year, including a 6-0 victory in Friday's series opener.

Chris Tillman pitched seven innings of two-hit ball and Adam Jones homered twice as the Orioles snapped a three-game skid overall and improved to 21-8 at home since dropping seven straight there in mid-May.

Manny Machado and J.J. Hardy also homered for the Orioles, raising their major league-leading total to 141.

''That's our style of play,'' Jones said. ''Tonight, it worked.''

Machado is batting .444 (16 for 36) with two home runs, five doubles and eight RBIs against the Red Sox this season.

The Red Sox dropped out of first place in the AL East for the first time since May 27 with their sixth loss in nine games.

''We've got a lot of guys that are really great hitters,'' losing pitcher John Lackey said. ''They'll come through and we'll get it going.''

Most surprising is how little offense Boston (61-43) has managed versus Baltimore. The Red Sox lead the majors with 519 runs, but only 22 have come against the team that ranks 27th in the majors in ERA. They are batting .187 against the Orioles this year, with Jacoby Ellsbury going 7 for 34, Dustin Pedroia 5 for 26 and David Ortiz 3 for 19.

Scott Feldman (2-1, 4.73 ERA) will try to help send Boston to a season high-tying third straight loss as he makes his fifth start for the Orioles.

The right-hander had his best outing with his new team in a 9-2 win at Kansas City on Monday. He allowed two runs and five singles over eight innings in his longest start since throwing a complete game for the Cubs on May 1.

Feldman beat the Red Sox with seven strong innings for Texas on July 23, 2012, in his most recent meeting.

He'll want to be especially careful with Mike Napoli, who is 11 for 23 with two homers in their matchups.

Ryan Dempster (5-8, 4.28) seeks his first win in five starts for Boston. The right-hander has no record and a 4.87 ERA in his last four outings, walking 10 and striking out 14 over 20 1-3 innings during that stretch. He allowed five runs - three earned - and four walks in 5 1-3 innings Sunday against the Yankees in an 8-7 win in 11.

Though he is 1-2 with a 4.64 ERA in six road starts, Dempster was very good in a 2-0 loss at Baltimore on June 14. He worked around five walks, giving up two runs and five hits over 7 2-3 innings.

Dempster hasn't had much trouble with the Orioles, going 1-1 with a 1.73 ERA in four career starts. He's been particularly tough on Hardy, holding him to two hits in 30 at-bats (.067).

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