While the Boston Red Sox have been known over the years for a powerful lineup, the Baltimore Orioles are showing they will take a back seat to no one this season when it comes to hitting the long ball, not even the Yankees whose bats have been quite sielnt as of late especially with RISP. The AL East rivals wrap up a three-game series Wednesday when the Orioles try to add to their major league-leading home run total at the expense of the Red Sox. Baltimore (28-16) has 67 homers, a total padded by a pair of two-run shots in Tuesday's 4-1 victory. Steve Tolleson staked the Orioles to a lead in the second inning and Wilson Betemit put the game out of reach with his in the eighth. The division-leading Orioles have also delivered those home runs in the clutch - 28 have come in the seventh inning or later - and are 16-3 when hitting two or more.
Daniel Bard (3-5, 4.85 ERA) will be charged with the task of slowing down the Orioles while trying to avoid a fourth loss in five starts. The right-hander battled control problems Friday, when he walked five over five innings and allowed five runs - four in the first - of a 6-4 defeat at Philadelphia. The Red Sox (21-22) were denied in their bid to get over .500 for the first time this season in losing for only the third time in 12 games. There was a bright spot as Kevin Youkilis returned to the lineup for the first time since April 29 and homered in his first at-bat.
Jake Arrieta (2-4, 4.72) had a needed bounce-back outing Friday for the Orioles but didn't get a win to show for it. The right-hander limited Washington to one run in seven innings and matched a season high with nine strikeouts before the Orioles won 2-1 in 11. He had been tagged for 13 runs and 19 hits in 10 innings in losing his previous two starts. Arrieta has not finished much off versus the Red Sox, going 0-2 with a 5.51 ERA in three lifetime starts. Both losses came last year, when he was roughed up for nine runs and 15 hits in 11 1-3 innings.
Both of last night's pitchers depended on solid outings after a game 1 slugfest, however the matinee in the warm soupy air could see a return of the offenses. Boston his hitting .231 collectively and averages about 5.4 rpg, aided by David Ortiz (.325 10 30). Big papi shows no signs of slowing down, while Cody Ross (.271 8 28) and Mike Aviles (.273 8 28) continue to complement a well balanced lineup. That doesn't bode well for Arrieta, who nonetheless will have plenty of run support behind him. Adam Jones (.306 14 29) has been crushing opponents pitching though most of his homers have resulted in the solo variety. Another reason the O's have a 2 game lead over Tampa Bay is equally impressive lineup balance in power, evident in JJ Hardy (.250 9 21) Nick Markakis (.264 8 24) and Matt Wieters (.240 8 21). It's going to be tough for Bard to keep Baltimroe off the scoreboard, so let's cash this puppy early and enjoy the profits heading into the extensive night card. Best of luck however you play!