Once big-time prospects - and then successful major league pitchers - Boston's Clay Buchholz and Baltimore's Brian Matusz both have battled through more difficult times in the past year.
Their respective teams hope their recent performances project better things ahead.
Matusz has been especially sharp lately, and he'll look to dominate the Red Sox for a second time in 2012 while extending the Orioles' remarkable run at Fenway Park on Thursday night.
The No. 4 overall pick in the 2008 draft had Baltimore buzzing with a brilliant finish to the 2010 season, but he struggled through a brutal 2011, going 1-9 with a 10.69 ERA surrounding stints on the disabled list and in the minors.
The left-hander was 0-3 with a 7.98 ERA to start this year, but has since turned things around. He allowed one run and two hits in 7 1-3 innings Saturday in a 2-1 win at Tampa Bay, improving to 4-1 with a 2.87 ERA in his last five starts.
That includes a 4-1 home victory May 22 against Boston. Matusz (5-5, 4.41 ERA) gave up a solo homer to Kevin Youkilis, but just one other hit and one walk while striking out a season-high nine over 6 1-3 innings.
"I'm getting my confidence back," Matusz said after that game. "Like I've said, I forgot all about last year. I look at that just as a fluke."
Matusz was rocked at Fenway in his lone appearance against the Red Sox last season, but he went 2-0 with a 2.43 ERA in five 2010 meetings, posting a 2.00 ERA in three on the road.
His teammates are also suddenly enjoying Boston.
The Orioles (32-24) had lost 42 of their previous 54 there before winning their last seven - the franchise's longest winning streak in the 100-year history of the majors' oldest ballpark.
They lost five of six to begin this nine-game trip, but can finish it with their second three-game sweep at Fenway this year. Wednesday's 2-1 win put them back in sole possession of the AL East lead.
"Everybody's doing a little part for the team," said Endy Chavez, 4 for 9 in this series while filling in for the injured Nick Markakis in right field.
"As a team, we are playing pretty good even though we have a lot of injuries. ... We're focused and we're fighting and all together. That's very important."
They've already proven they can handle Buchholz, who has allowed 10 runs in nine innings over two starts against Baltimore this year. J.J. Hardy is 4 for 6 with two homers against the pitcher who no-hit the Orioles in his second major league start Sept. 1, 2007.
Buchholz (5-2, 6.58) was limited to 14 starts last year due to a back injury, and he had a 7.84 ERA through his first nine outings this season.
But the right-hander has pitched well his last two times out. He allowed two runs in seven innings May 27 against Tampa Bay, then worked a season-high eight in a 7-2 win Friday at Toronto.
"He's been building to that, that's for sure," manager Bobby Valentine said. "Extra on his fastball, terrific changeup, changed his angle a little on his breaking ball, threw strikes, very competitive. I like that, he likes that and I expect we can get more of the same."
Boston (28-28) is looking for more offense after totaling seven hits - six singles - in its third straight loss Wednesday. Dustin Pedroia is 0 for 7 with four strikeouts since returning from a thumb injury, and David Ortiz has cooled, going 2 for 15 in his last four games.
The DH is 4 for 32 (.125) versus Baltimore this year and 1 for 13 with 10 strikeouts in his career against Matusz.