There is one team in the AL East that has been a thorn in the side of Red Sox Nation. That team is the Baltimore Orioles, who at this point in the season are the only division rival to hold a winning record (5-2) against the Boston Red Sox.
The Red Sox (61-42) get a chance to even that record, but things won’t be easy, as they open up a weekend series with the Orioles (57-46) at Oriole Park at Camden Yards tonight. Boston’s series finale with the Rays was rained out and rescheduled for Monday, allowing manager John Farrell to restructure his pitching rotation and give John Lackey an extra day’s rest. Lackey will face the Orioles tonight and seeks to have the same performance as he did the last time he took the mound in Baltimore. The right-hander went seven strong innings, allowing two runs on seven hits in a 5-4 Red Sox win, the lone victory of a four-game series in June. Lackey is 7-7 with a 2.95 ERA this season, the eighth-best mark in the American League and the best Lackey has had through 17 starts in any season.
Here is tonight’s Red Sox lineup (first pitch – 7:05 pm EDT):
1. Ellsbury, CF
2. Victorino, RF
3. Pedroia, 2B
4. Ortiz, DH
5. Napoli, 1B
6. Nava, LF
7. Saltalamacchia, C
8. Drew, SS
9. Iglesias, 3B
The Os will start Chris Tillman on the mound. He is 12-3 with a 3.84 ERA this season and has a 21-6 record over the past two seasons combined. Tillman earned the win against Boston on June 14, going six innings with no earned runs on just three hits.
Average to start
Both Boston and Baltimore have been average at best since the All-Star Break. The Red Sox are 3-3, having taken two-of-three from the Yankees and losing two-of-three to the Rays at home. That combined with Tampa Bay’s recent hot streak has brought the Rays within a half-game of the first-place Red Sox. The Orioles opened with a three-game sweep in Texas and won a game in Kansas City before losing the next three to the Royals. Baltimore is four games behind Boston in the standings going into this series and the Sox would like to extend that lead and keep their lead over Tampa before the Rays come back for a make-up game on Monday.
Jose Iglesias overtook Will Middlebrooks’ spot at third base partly because of his extraordinary play in the field and partly because of his ability to find way to get on base. Iglesias batted a .435 clip in his first 135 at-bats, prompting a demotion for Middlebrooks, who was batting .192 with a .228 OBP. Since Iglesias took over full-time, though, his average has sunk to .343, batting just .197 with a .250 OBP in 66 at-bats since July 3. Farrell remains certain that Iglesias will get back on track and that his defensive skills will keep him in the lineup for a while longer, as he has helped solidify a spot on the left side of the infield.
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