The Red Sox will get back to dealing with the AL East Tuesday night as they take on the Baltimore Orioles in a three-game set in Camden Yards.
While their 14-game run against the AL West and Central started off well with a 2-1 series win against the Tigers, it ended as yet another setback for a beleaguered Red Sox team which dropped seven of the last eleven games. Now they'll hope to work back towards winning territory against the Baltimore Orioles.
The last month hasn't been a great time for the Orioles, who struggled around the end of July and beginning of August, dropping back some in the wild card race. Over the last couple of weeks, however, they've started to find their rhythm again, taking seven wins in nine games. If that weren't bad news enough, the Sox are even catching a strong portion of the Baltimore rotation.
Boston Red Sox (57-59) vs. Baltimore Orioles (62-53)
Tuesday, August 14, 7:05 p.m. EST
NESN/MLB Network, WEEI
Josh Beckett (5-9, 4.97 ERA) vs. Wei-Yin Chen (10-7, 3.79 ERA)
Nothing is going right for Josh Beckett at the moment. An awful start against the Texas Rangers turned a nine-run Sox attack into a losing effort last week, and all the Sox can do is hope that an extra day of rest will be enough to get Beckett back on track. From a 4.04 ERA in the beginning of June, Beckett has been slowly-but-surely slipping all the way to this point, and without a single start that can really be identified as more than average since the beginning of July things are only getting worse. Is the beleaguered righty finally collapsing under the constant pressure and scrutiny of the Boston media and fan base?
Wei-Yin Chen has been a lot better than Beckett over the last couple of months, but he was just as bad in his last start, allowing seven runs to the Kansas City Royals, of all teams. As mediocre as the Sox have been of late, they can stack their lineup fairly well against lefties, and the most important bats have at least been heating up. If this game devolves into a shootout, the Sox will at least have a decent shot.
Wednesday, August 15, 7:05 p.m. EST
Aaron Cook (3-5, 4.70 ERA) vs. Miguel Gonzalez (4-2, 3.42 ERA)
The last time Aaron Cook faced the Baltimore Orioles, they ruined his Red Sox debut by shredding his knee and knocking him out with a big third inning as he tried to pitch through the gruesome injury that would send him to the disabled list for a lengthy period. This time, the odds are not quite so heavily in their favor, as Aaron Cook will give them the same chance he gives just about everyone: if the sinker sinks and stays low, they'll have to be really good or really lucky to get to him. If not, it'll be an awful night for the Red Sox.
If Miguel Gonzalez has a successful major league career, the Red Sox front office might be sick. Taken from Los Angeles in the Rule V draft, the Sox waited four years for Gonzalez to get healthy. He never did. They finally released him this past offseason, and now here he is with seven starts in the majors and a 3.42 ERA. What the Sox wouldn't do to have that in their rotation. Still, Gonzalez is a bit fluky, and profiles more as an average pitcher given his peripherals, so maybe the Sox can be the ones to bring him to Earth some.
Thursday, August 16, 7:05 p.m. EST
NESN/MLB Network, WEEI
Clay Buchholz (10-3, 4.24 ERA) vs. Chris Tillman (5-2, 3.40 ERA)
"Spahn, Sain, and pray for rain." That was the mantra of Boston Braves fans in 1948 (though, to be fair, Spahn wasn't all that impressive compared to Sain and even some of the other rotation members that year--but I digress). Today, in Boston, it's probably more like "Clay Buchholz and then a biblical downpour for four." Not as catchy, no, but the desperation is perhaps greater. While the rest of the rotation flounders, Clay Buchholz has dominated since the last game of May. 19 runs in 75.1 innings is good for a 2.27 ERA, with 59 strikeouts to 15 walks to back up his results. He's not showing any signs of slowing down, either, given his last outing: a terrific complete game two-hitter against Cleveland.
Unlike Buchholz, who's worked his way back from an awful start, Chris Tillman is seeing a tremendous start slip away after his last few games. After allowing four runs in his first 21 innings, Tillman has surrendered 11 in his last 18. His fastball has been on a fairly steady decline as well, which could indicate that the young righty is tiring as he approaches his previous season high in innings between Triple-A and the majors.