The 2012 season is, mercifully, coming to an end.
The first stop on the final run to the end of this dismal campaign will come in Baltimore, where the Sox can once again do some good...by losing.
While the playoffs have long since gone out the window for the Red Sox, the Orioles are currently battling the Yankees for the A.L. East lead, trailing by just one game. How that race plays out will largely depend on how these two teams do against the Red Sox in their remaining series.
For many Red Sox fans, then, the ideal would be losing to the Orioles, beating the Yankees, and enjoying a nice drink as the Bronx Bombers are sent home after a one-game playoff.
Boston Red Sox (69-87) vs. Baltimore Orioles (89-67)
Friday, September 28, 7:05 p.m. EST
Aaron Cook (4-10, 5.13 ERA) vs. Chris Tillman (8-2, 3.08 ERA)
Aaron Cook has actually found a little bit of success of late, at least compared to his terrible performances in August. Still, his recent run of form came to an end in his last start with five earned runs in five innings, and who else but the Orioles did the damage?
Chris Tillman has been strong in what time he's gotten with the Orioles this year, and while one of his worst starts came against Boston, that was before the Sox brought the Dead Ball era back to Fenway with their mega trade. Six innings of one-run ball marked his last outing against Boston with their historically weak September lineup. There's little reason to expect that to change now.
Saturday, September 29, 7:05 p.m. EST
Felix Doubront (11-9, 4.91 ERA) vs. Steve Johnson (4-0, 1.62 ERA)
One of the few bright spots of September has been Felix Doubront finally finding his footing again. He's been shaky even when he's kept runs off the board, but that comes with the exception of his last outing: an 11 strikeout domination of the Orioles. It's going to be hard to repeat that performance, but anything close will likely provide a serious boost to the team's confidence in the young lefty going forward.
Nobody can seem to figure Steve Johnson out, even now that he's gotten stretched out to starting length. Throwing 96 pitches against Toronto in his last outing, Johnson picked up five innings of shutout ball, allowing just three hits. So far this year he's allowed 34 baserunners in 34 innings, and struck out 43 batters. Where did this guy come from?
Sunday, September 30, 1:35 p.m. EST
Zach Stewart (1-3, 7.91 ERA) vs. TBD
Zach Stewart's last outing is best forgotten about, but that will only be possible if he can get it together this time around. In his one start for the Red Sox this season, Stewart didn't look anything like a major league pitcher, floating his offerings homeward for the Angels to clobber. He has some level of talent given the expectations of him in past years, but if he pitches like that again, no major league hitter is going to miss.