The Boston Red Sox missed out on last year's playoffs after losing to the Baltimore Orioles on the last day of the season.
While the Red Sox have a chance to play spoiler this time around, doing so could prove difficult given both clubs' recent efforts.
Visiting Boston tries to avoid a seventh loss in eight games Friday night when it opens a three-game set against a Baltimore team coming off its most impressive power display in 27 years.
Chris Davis and Manny Machado each hit a pair of home runs as the Orioles (89-67) tied a team record with seven Wednesday, salvaging a four-game split against Toronto with a 12-2 victory. Nate McLouth, Mark Reynolds and Jim Thome also went deep for Baltimore, which previously hit seven homers in 1967 and 1985.
"Home runs are very unique, and when you do what we did tonight, it's something to be proud of," Thome said. "It's something that doesn't happen a whole lot in the game."
Wednesday's victory kept the Orioles just behind New York for first place in the AL East and on top of the wild-card standings.
"There's no stress in here, there's no pressure on us," center fielder Adam Jones, batting .400 with three homers and six RBIs in his last eight games, told the team's official website. "We're not supposed to be here according to everybody in the media. We're just playing. We know what's at stake."
With six games remaining, Baltimore is trying to hold on for its first playoff berth since 1997. The Orioles took two of three at Fenway Park last weekend to improve to 10-5 against Boston (69-87), and they'll face a Red Sox team that's been outscored 43-21 during a 1-6 slump before visiting Tampa Bay following this series.
"We just got through playing Boston and we played them well," Davis said. "Obviously, the three in Tampa are going to be tough, but we're at a point where we still have a chance, so that's all you can ask for."
The Orioles will give the ball to Chris Tillman (8-2, 3.08 ERA), who's posted a 1.64 ERA over his last four starts while holding opponents to a .154 average.
The right-hander was sharp against the Red Sox on Sunday but didn't factor in the decision of a 2-1 loss, yielding one run and six hits over six innings. Tillman had gone 0-1 with a 5.73 ERA over his previous three career starts versus Boston.
The Red Sox are coming off a two-game sweep at the hands of the Rays, falling 4-2 on Wednesday to finish 34-47 at home - matching their worst mark since 1965.
"Disappointing," manager Bobby Valentine said. "We didn't walk off many (times) and didn't score enough runs. We've got a lot saved up for next year.
"Not much I would have done differently, I don't think, other than I think would have kept the beer in the clubhouse. I think I could have used one after a few of those games."
The Red Sox haven't been very formidable on the road, either, dropping 12 of 17 by a 106-52 margin.
Boston will try to get on track behind Aaron Cook (4-10, 5.13), who's posted a 6.12 ERA over his last five outings. The right-hander gave up five runs and nine hits over 5 1-3 innings Saturday in a 9-6, 12-inning loss to Baltimore.
Cook is 0-2 with an 8.78 ERA over three starts against the Orioles this season.
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