Following a good road trip in which they won four out of seven games, the 68-83 Boston Red Sox will return to Fenway Park to start their final homestand of the year with a three-game set against the 85-64 Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles will wrap up a nine-game road trip that started with four wins in six games on the west coast. They enter the series a game behind the New York Yankees in division race, but they hold a comfortable four and a half game lead for a wild card spot.
The Orioles are riding outstanding pitching in the stretch run. Over the last month, they boast a 3.28 ERA and 2.58 strikeout-to-walk ratio. They'll face a Red Sox lineup that has gotten progressively weaker down the stretch. In September, the Red Sox are hitting .222 with a .608 OPS through 18 games. Among the weakest bats have been Scott Podsednik (.143/.160/.143), Mike Aviles, (.159/.229/.182), and James Loney (.207/.233/.241).
September 21: Jon Lester (4.95 ERA, 157/63 K/BB) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (3.57 ERA, 66/31 K/BB)
While little else has gone well for him this year, Lester's lengthy record of success against Baltimore continues. He tossed quality starts in each of his first two outings against the Orioles and his career ERA against them sits at 2.49 through 126.1 innings. After posting a 4.92 ERA in the Red Sox' minor league system over the last two seasons, Gonzalez found some magic at the Major League level for the Orioles. Through 15 games and 12 starts, he continues to toss quality innings. He shouldn't be expected to keep his ERA this low with his peripherals, he's proving himself to be a capable back of the rotation arm.
September 22: Aaron Cook (4.93 ERA, 19/16 K/BB) vs. TBA
Cook allowed 12 runs in eight innings in his first two starts against the Orioles. In six starts against AL East opponents, he has a 6.44 ERA and 0.86 K/BB ratio. Randy Wolf is a leading possibility to start for the Orioles in the series. He posted a 5.69 ERA in 142.1 innings for the Milwaukee Brewers before joining the O's in September. After three appearances out of the bullpen, he made his first start for Baltimore on September 16.
September 23: Felix Doubront (5.08 ERA, 146/68 K/BB) vs. Chris Tillman (3.22 ERA, 53/21 K/BB)
Doubront enters the series three innings shy of 150, putting him well above his previous season-high. He made one start against the Orioles on May 22, striking out nine while allowing just four hits and two runs in six innings. Tillman is expected to pitch either the second or third game of the series for Baltimore. He returned from an elbow injury on September 17, tossing six strong innings in Seattle. In his fourth year in the majors, he's putting up career best numbers in strikeouts per nine innings, walks per nine, and ERA.
Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, Yahoo! Sports
MLB Stats, ESPN.com
William Menna is a native New Englander and longtime Boston sports fan.
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