One more win may be enough to get the Boston Red Sox to the postseason, but a second might be needed. Giving the ball to Jon Lester against the Baltimore Orioles tends to assure the Red Sox of a victory without much trouble. However, Lester will be pitching on three days' rest. You can bet there will be plenty of scoreboard watching and hope that Lester gets Boston to at worst hold a one game playoff in order to reach the postseason when Boston faces Baltimore at Camden Yards on Wednesday night.
The Red Sox held a nine-game lead over Tampa Bay earlier this month, but their 7-19 September record has dramatically changed the landscape. They held on for an 8-7 win over Baltimore (68-93) on Tuesday to keep pace for the league's final playoff berth. The left-hander is 14-0 with a 2.33 ERA in 17 starts against Baltimore, winning all seven of his decisions in nine visits to Camden Yards. He continued that mastery April 28, allowing two runs in eight innings of a 6-2 road victory.
Lester, however, hasn't come close to being that effective his last three trips to the mound, losing each behind a 10.54 ERA. He was pounded by the Yankees on Saturday, surrendering a season-high eight runs and eight hits in 2 2-3 innings of a 9-1 defeat. Ryan Lavarnway is expected to complete the battery with Lester. The rookie came up big Tuesday, hitting the first two homers of his career while collecting four RBIs as he filled in for the injured Jarrod Saltalamacchia (bruised collarbone).
The Orioles would like to spoil the Red Sox's playoff hopes by capping a 14th consecutive losing season with an 11th win in 16 games. Alfredo Simon (4-9, 4.85) takes the mound looking to win for the first time since beating Minnesota on Aug. 23. The right-hander is 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA in six starts since, including two losses in four games at Camden Yards. Simon lost his only career start against the Red Sox on July 9, yielding three runs and eight hits with three walks in 4 2-3 innings of a 4-0 defeat at Fenway Park.
We close out another successful campaign with a fair price. Last season we managed just a .500 record on about 60 plays. This year we got close to our peak of 58% from 2009. Boston who leads the majors with a .280 BA and is third in the league in HR with 202, will need to get Lester plenty of offense if the Sox look to punch their postseason ticket. Jacoby Ellsbury (.305 32 105) would most likely be in the AL MVP conversation as will Adrian Gonzalez (.338 27 117) who despite falling just below production standards will still be in the heart of a battle for the batting title. David Ortiz (.307 29 96) and Dustin Pedroia (.304 20 89) round out 4 full time Sox players to hit at least .300. For the O's to play spoiler one last time, they have a good shot at getting the best of Lester wih their 190 HR right behind the Sox. While pitching once again was the major downfall for this somewhat improved bunch, Mark Reynolds (.220 37 86) has had decent success this season against Boston as has JJ Hardy .267 29 78) and Adam Jones (.281 25 83)who also came on strong in the second half. The offenses should have their way this evening in a traditionally high scoring series with lots more in the line than advertised. Best of luck however you play!