Game 133: Orioles at Red Sox - Birds in town as playoff push begins

Ben Whitehead
Contributing Writer

A successful trip to the West Coast yielded a 4-2 record for the Red Sox, who won both series in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Boston returns home tonight with a 1.5-game lead in the AL East and will be facing a team that has been a thorn in its side for the past two seasons.

The Baltimore Orioles have been hovering around 5 games back for a while and have a chance to make a playoff push. The Red Sox (77-55) are 4-6 against the Orioles, the only team in the AL East the Sox are under .500 against this season. Since the end of the 2011 season when Baltimore thwarted Boston’s playoff chance by winning seven of eight games, the Orioles are 24-11 against the Red Sox. More success against Boston could propel the Orioles toward a playoff run again in 2013. But losing to the Red Sox in this three-game series would push the O’s further down the standings, as they are 6-8 in their last 14 games and sliding.

Felix Doubront, who is coming off an outstanding outing in San Francisco, will open the series on the mound for the Red Sox. Doubront is 9-6 with a 3.79 ERA and picked up a win against the Giants, going eight innings and allowing one run on five hits.

Here is the Red Sox lineup tonight (first pitch – 7:10 pm EDT):

1. Ellsbury, CF
2. Victorino, RF
3. Pedroia, 2B
4. Ortiz, DH
5. Gomes, LF
6. Napoli, 1B
7. Saltalamacchia, C
8. Drew, SS
9. Middlebrooks, 3B

Doubront, P

Wei-Yin Chen starts for the Orioles. He is 7-6 with a 3.19 ERA and has gone at least six innings in each of his last eight starts. However, Chen is 1-3 in his last four starts, only picking up a win in his last outing against the Rays.

The Final Push is Upon Us
There are 30 games left on the Red Sox schedule. That’s it. That’s all. Boston sits in first in the AL East, despite going 9-10 over its last 19 games (16 road games, 3 home). It’s not the nine-game lead the Sox had in 2011, but it’s a lead nonetheless and the final 30 games will be crucial in deciding the East, other divisions and the wild card teams. Of the 30, 22 are against foes from the East. Postseason baseball isn't for another month, but the remainder of this season will feel like the playoffs. Scoreboard watching will be abound in ballparks up and down the East Coast. Do the Red Sox have what it takes? To this point in the season, that answer seems to be yes. Only time will tell, but the BoSox control their own fate.

This and that
Will Middlebrooks is batting .356 with five extra-base hits, including two home runs, in 14 games since being recalled…The starting pitchers combined for a 1.12 ERA during the six-game trip out West…Mike Napoli enjoyed LA, going 5-for-8 with a home runs and four RBI against the Dodgers. It appears the rest rejuvenated the Sox first baseman and that could prove crucial down the stretch…Koji Uehara improved his streak of not allowing an earned run to 24 innings – only one unearned run during that span. He has 13 saves, a 1.24 ERA 79 strikeouts, nine walks and opponents are batting just .144 against him this season.

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