The Red Sox will head back home as they welcome the Baltimore Orioles to Fenway Park for a three-game weekend set.
While there's little question that the players on the field want to win, for once they might be in conflict with their fan base. Even forgetting the advantages of a loss in terms of draft positioning, these are the Orioles. There's not been a real rivalry there for 20 years despite their spoiler role in 2011.
But who really wants the Orioles to lose? The New York Yankees. Every Orioles win is more pressure on the Yankees' division lead, and if they find themselves out of the race after a one-game wild card playoff, then it'll be a collapse nearly as bad as Boston's last year.
Misery loves company, and what better company in misery than an age-old rival?
Boston Red Sox (68-83) vs. Baltimore Orioles (85-64)
Friday, September 21, 7:10 p.m. EST
Jon Lester (9-12, 4.95 ERA) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (6-4, 3.57 ERA)
Miguel Gonzalez has made the Sox regret letting him go with 10 solid innings against them this year--not to mention the 76 frames against other teams. Gonzalez isn't likely to go too long, and he's not likely to be completely dominant, but he is likely to keep the Sox well in check.
The hope, then, will be that Jon Lester is up for a dominant night. He looked dominant against the Blue Jays, but one really bad result on a pretty good pitch cost him in his seven-inning outing in Toronto. While the Orioles are a different team this year, given his preternatural success against them in the past and the way he pitched last time out, said dominance is not completely outside the realm of reason.
Saturday, September 22, 1:10 p.m. EST
Aaron Cook (4-10, 4.93 ERA) vs. TBD
The Orioles don't quite have all their ducks in a line just yet, but the Sox do. Even if they're ugly ducklings like Aaron Cook. Not to comment on Cook's appearance, mind, just his pitching. He's actually managed to keep things under control of late, allowing six runs in his last 17 innings. Still, given that the two best outings came against Mariners and Rays, and he gave up three runs in five innings against the Yankees, the Orioles could put a stop to his good run.
Sunday, September 23, 1:10 p.m. EST
Felix Doubront (11-9, 5.08 ERA) vs. TBD
Felix Doubront may have survived another outing, but after 10 walks in 12 innings, it's kind of hard to put much faith in his ability to maintain this form. He still seems like a guy pitching out of gas, unable to get his control down with a tired arm. It wouldn't be surprising to see things catch up to him against the Orioles.