Red Sox-Orioles Preview

The Associated Press

While the Boston Red Sox should be happy to see one red-hot club leave town, they'll now hit the road to face another team that has given them a difficult time.

The Baltimore Orioles hope to end a three-game losing streak and beat Boston for the sixth time in eight meetings Friday night in the opener of a three-game series.

After dropping two of three in their rain-shortened series, the Red Sox (61-42) had their AL East lead shrink to one-half over surging Tampa Bay.

Boston, which has been alone atop the division since May 27, remained in first place for at least one more day when Thursday's finale was rained out. That contest has been rescheduled for Monday night.

The Red Sox have struggled at the plate, batting .225 while dropping five of eight. They could have a tough time getting back on track since they're hitting .194 against the Orioles.

Jacoby Ellsbury (5 for 30), Dustin Pedroia (4 for 22), Stephen Drew (2 for 17) and David Ortiz (2 for 16) haven't fared well versus Baltimore. Pedroia is also 1 for 19 over the past five games overall.

The Orioles (57-46), four games behind the Red Sox, hope to avoid their fourth straight loss after dropping the final three in Kansas City.

"We've been gone 11 days and everybody is looking forward to getting back home," manager Buck Showalter said.

Showalter's club appears to have a decent shot to bounce back in the opener of a nine-game homestand with Chris Tillman (12-3, 3.84 ERA) on the mound.

The right-hander, who looks to become the first Oriole to win 13 games since Erik Bedard in 2007, has limited opponents to three runs or fewer in eight of nine starts. He gave up two runs over eight-plus innings in a 4-2 win at Texas on Sunday.

"Chris does things the right way,'' Showalter said. "Usually there's good karma when he pitches.''

That has been the case when Tillman has faced the Red Sox. He's 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in his last six starts against them after allowing three hits over six-plus innings in a 2-0 win June 14 to help the Orioles take three of four at Camden Yards.

Boston counters with John Lackey (7-7, 2.95), who had his start pushed back due to Thursday's rainout.

"Keeping four of the five guys on their normal turn, despite John and Ryan (Dempster) getting an extra day, and just felt like (Jon) Lester and (Felix) Doubront in (their) slots, I felt like it was right,'' manager John Farrell said.

Lackey gets the chance to improve his 12-4 record and 3.31 ERA in 20 career starts against the Orioles. He earned Boston's only win in last month's series in Baltimore, giving up two runs in seven innings of a 5-4 win June 15.

The right-hander has lost two of his last three starts overall, but posted a 3.54 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 20 1-3 innings while the offense failed to give him any support in those defeats.

Manny Machado is 14 for 32 (.438) while hitting safely in all seven meetings against Boston, but is 1 for 16 in his last four games overall.

Teammate Chris Davis has yet to homer in seven games following the All-Star break, but he's hit seven in his last 10 versus Boston. Davis is 6 for 28 (.214) with 13 strikeouts since the break.

Catcher Matt Wieters has five straight multi-hit games, going 11 for 21 during this hot stretch.

The Orioles have won eight of 10 at home against the Red Sox.

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