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Red Sox-Orioles Preview

AP - Sports

The Boston Red Sox own the best record in baseball, and they're hitting very well ahead of the postseason.

A victory in the regular-season finale Sunday over the Baltimore Orioles could provide even more momentum.

Boston (97-64) is bidding to win 98 games for the first time since 2004, when it went on to win the World Series for the first time since 1918.

The Red Sox were denied in their first attempt at matching that mark, losing 6-5 on Saturday.

That result, however, was rendered somewhat meaningless because Boston had already secured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with Oakland's loss to Seattle earlier in the day. The Red Sox will face the wild-card winner - Cleveland, Tampa Bay or Texas - in Game 1 of the AL division series at Fenway Park on Friday.

"To know going into the postseason that for every series we go into, being able to play in front of Fenway fans and how comfortable and successful we've been at home, this is a good thing," manager John Farrell said.

Farrell surely thinks Boston's recent dominance at the plate is a good thing. His team is batting .371 with 32 runs and six homers in the last three games. Daniel Nava has been a catalyst, going 8 for 14 (.571) with a home run, three RBIs and five runs.

The outfielder was 4 for 4 Saturday, raising his career average against the Orioles (84-77) to .333.

Scheduled starter John Lackey (10-13, 3.52 ERA) tries to conclude his first season after Tommy John surgery in strong fashion.

The right-hander's best performance since returning may have been a two-hitter in a 3-1 win over Baltimore on Sept. 19. He struck out eight, while the only run he allowed coming on a seventh-inning homer by Adam Jones.

Lackey wasn't nearly that sharp five days later at Colorado, giving up four runs and three homers in six innings of an 8-3 loss.

Still, he's focused on being a factor in the postseason.

"I'm good to go," Lackey said. "Feel good."

Chris Tillman (16-7, 3.62) starts for the Orioles looking to wrap up his outstanding season with his first win in four starts. The right-hander ranks among the AL leaders in wins with a total that matches that of his previous four years.

Tillman, though, has been unable to earn his 17th win, going 0-2 with a 3.27 ERA in his last three starts while being backed by six total runs.

His most recent defeat came opposite Lackey on Sept. 19, when he allowed three runs - all in the second - with eight strikeouts in seven innings.

Unlike Lackey, Tillman followed that up with an impressive performance Tuesday, yielding one run and fanning nine in seven innings of a 3-2 loss in 10 to Toronto.

He's 4-1 with a 1.55 ERA over his last seven starts versus Boston, allowing only an unearned run in 21 innings while winning all three at home over that span.

Tillman has limited Nava to 4 for 17 (.235) with seven strikeouts. David Ortiz (0 for 13), Will Middlebrooks (0 for 11) and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (2 for 19) also have struggled in this matchup.

Baltimore slugger Chris Davis is 11 for 30 (.367) with two homers and three doubles lifetime against Lackey. He enters the season's final day with a major league-leading 138 RBIs, one ahead of Detroit's Miguel Cabrera.

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