BALTIMORE, MD - JULY 18: J.J. Hardy #2 of the Baltimore Orioles throws to first base after forcing out Kevin Youkilis #20 of the Boston Red Sox at second base during the seventh innin at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on July 18, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Red Sox defeated the Orioles 15-10. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
The Red Sox will face a tough test against the Orioles as they try to gain ground on the American League wild card leaders.
The Red Sox will continue their divisional schedule as they take on the Baltimore Orioles in a three-game set. aiming to gain ground on the American League wild card leaders.
The Sox had a chance of pulling within a game of the playoffs on Sunday, but could not get the job done thanks to a disastrous start from Daniel Bard, who proved incapable of escaping even the second inning. Now they'll take another shot at closing the gap as they send their front-3 to the mound against the Orioles, including a suddenly revitalized Clay Buchholz.
Boston Red Sox (28-26) vs. Baltimore Orioles (30-24)
Tuesday, June 5, 7:10 p.m. EST
Jon Lester (3-4, 4.79 ERA) vs. Jason Hammel (6-2, 3.06 ERA)
It's been a long while since Jon Lester's last good start--a complete game effort against the Seattle Mariners. Since then, Lester has had two mediocre outings, with four runs in six innings each time, and one terrible one, allowing seven in just four against the Rays. The Sox did receive some signs of life with seven strikeouts and not a single walk in his last outing, but this is pretty late for Lester to be turning things around. Hopefully the Orioles, who he's traditionally dominated, will help him set things straight once-and-for-all.
A change of scenery and a fastball with some added tail has provided Jason Hammel with a breakout season at the ripe age of 29. It wouldn't be the first time a player has found a pitch revitalized by a move away from Colorado, and despite popular perception that it's the curveball that dies in high altitudes, fastballs are the pitches that suffer the most, turning two-seamers into four-seamers with no rise to speak of. There's plenty of reason to think, then, that Hammel might be for real, and if the Sox can't handle that fastball's late tail, they'll not be doing a great deal of damage against him today.
Wednesday, June 6, 7:10 p.m. EST
Josh Beckett (4-5, 4.26 ERA) vs. Wei-Yin Chen (4-2, 3.75 ERA)
Josh Beckett was neither good nor bad in his last outing, arguably the first time that's been true all season. It will be Beckett's first time up against the new-and-improved Orioles lineup, which could surprise him given how well they've hit the ball this year compared to in years past. They still have been known to struggle against good curveballs and cutters, however, so Beckett's ability to utilize that part of his repertoire will be hugely important.
Wei-Yin Chen was able to survive for 6.2 innings in his last outing against the Red Sox, which was frankly not something he should have done the way he was actually pitching that night. Hopefully the Sox will see fit to rectify that mistake with Chen again finding himself struggling in recent starts.
Thursday, June 7, 7:10 p.m. EST
NESN/MLB Network, WEEI
Clay Buchholz (5-2, 6.58 ERA) vs. Brian Matusz (5-5, 4.41 ERA)
Clay Buchholz has finally put together a pair of truly impressive starts, utilizing all of his pitches in an eight-inning gem against the Blue Jays. To make it three-straight he'll have to beat a team which has hammered him for ten runs in nine innings of work so far this season. It's difficult, however, to compare Buchholz in his last two games to the pitcher we saw for the majority of the season, so hopefully the Orioles will be caught off guard by the man who once no-hit them.
Brian Matusz has found his feet since the Red Sox provided him with the best game of his season--a six inning, one run effort which saw him strike out half again as many batters as he had in any game since 2010. He's taken out some weaker-hitting teams in the Rays and Royals since then, but like Buchholz he's done it in a way which makes him seem a completely new man. The Sox can't overlook this game any more than they can Hammel's, given the high expectations Matusz once carried.