The Baltimore Orioles look to continue their recent hex over the Boston Red Sox when they start a short two-game series on Monday night.
Opening pitch from Boston’s famed Fenway Park will be 4:10 p.m. (PT). Baltimore will send Chris Tillman (2-3, 6.15 ERA) to the hill to face Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-3, 4.64 ERA).
Baltimore has been a thorn in Boston’s side recently. They split 18 games last season despite Boston winning 23 more games overall (89-66). The Orioles also won two of three at Camden Yards in the only meeting this year in late April.
Baltimore (18-20) finds itself at the bottom of the AL East, but just 4.5 games behind first place Tampa Bay. Hitting has been a problem at 3.87 runs per game, 12th in the AL. Veteran additions Mark Reynolds, Vladimir Guerrero and Derrek Lee have underachieved as have holdovers Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts.
The pitching ranks 13th in the AL (4.38 ERA), but has shown promise. The starters shined early as Baltimore began the year 6-1. The rotation has also been lights-out the last five games (combined 1.42 ERA), with the O’s winning four. That doesn’t include Sunday’s series rubber match at Tampa, with the result still pending.
Tillman had one of those great recent starts. He allowed just one run and three hits over six innings at home against Seattle last Wednesday (4-2 win). He out-dueled one of baseball’s best pitchers in Felix Hernandez.
The 23-year-old right-hander is in his third MLB season, never making more than 12 starts in a year or posting an ERA lower than 5.40. His road ERA this year (8.27 ERA) is much worse than home (4.15), which is worrisome for Monday night.
Tillman hasn’t seen the Red Sox this season. His only career start against them was a disaster, four earned runs over 1 1/3 innings in an 11-0 home loss last June.
Boston (19-20) is returning home after a five-game road trip. The first two losses in Toronto were followed by two big wins at Yankee Stadium. The Sunday night game versus the Bronx Bombers is still pending.
Manager Terry Francona jury-rigged the weekend rotation so top pitchers Clay Buchholz, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester would all see action. Fortunately, John Lackey (MLB-worst 8.01 ERA for starters) wasn’t scheduled to pitch.
Matsuzaka could have pitched Saturday in what would have been his regular turn. Instead, he was pushed back to avoid the hostile New York environment.
The 30-year-old right-hander last pitched Sunday at home against Minnesota. He allowed four earned runs over six innings in a 9-5 win. That was his first start since April 29 after leaving with elbow soreness.
Matsuzaka’s 4.64 ERA is skewed by a terrible outing (seven runs over two innings) versus Tampa Bay on April 11. His ERA is 2.90 outside that contest.
The Japan native last faced Baltimore in September, surrendering four earned runs in 6 1/3 innings in a 4-2 loss. He’s 4-3 with just a 5.73 ERA in nine lifetime starts against the Orioles, but Boston is 5-2 in his last seven starts against them.
Boston is 11-9 at home this year, with the ‘over’ going 10-8-2. The ‘over’ is 4-1-1 in Matsuzaka’s six starts overall.
Baltimore is 8-9 away with the ‘under’ 9-8 in those games. The ‘under’ is 4-0 in its last four games overall.
Weather will be in the 50s with spotty showers. The rain is expected to continue for several days which could also dampen Tuesday’s contest of Lackey versus impressive rookie lefty Zach Britton.