The Boston Red Sox have everything clicking at the right time and have turned a tight race for the American League East title into a runaway. The Red Sox will try to pick up their seventh straight victory and clinch a series win when they visit the Baltimore Orioles for the third of a four-game series on Wednesday.
Boston is trying to ride David Ortiz’s farewell tour to the best record in the American League and homefield advantage throughout the playoffs, and “Big Papi” did his part with a key three-run homer in Tuesday’s 5-2 triumph. The blast was the 36th of the season for Ortiz, giving him the most home runs ever in a player’s final season. “It’s just a number, man. I’m just trying to help this ball club,” Ortiz told reporters after the game. “I don’t really care about personal numbers. I care about winning.” The Orioles fell five games behind the Red Sox in the East with the loss, and their lead over the Detroit Tigers for the second AL wild card is down to 1 1/2 games. Baltimore’s powerful lineup has been held to two runs in each of the last four games, dropping three of the four.
PITCHING MATCHUP: Red Sox RH Clay Buchholz (7-10, 5.20 ERA) vs. Orioles RH Ubaldo Jimenez (7-11, 5.94)
Buchholz is trying to impress staff enough to earn the No. 3 starter’s spot in the postseason and has to keep pace after Eduardo Rodriguez added to his resume with a strong outing on Tuesday. Buchholz bounced back from a rough outing by holding the New York Yankees to two runs on seven hits and a pair of walks in six innings on Friday. The veteran Texan has not been at his best against Baltimore this season, going 0-2 with a 6.35 ERA in three games – one start.
Jimenez has been solid over his last five outings and gets the nod over struggling righty Yovani Gallardo. Jimenez had a string of four straight quality starts come to an end on Friday but went seven innings and allowed four runs while striking out eight without a walk in a no decision against Tampa Bay. The Dominican Republic native made two starts against Boston in the first half of the season and was lit up for a total of nine runs in 10 innings.
1. Red Sox RF Mookie Betts (201) became the first player in the majors to reach 200 hits this season on Wednesday and the franchise’s first since Jacoby Ellsbury and Adrian Gonzalez in 2011.
2. Baltimore 3B Manny Machado is 2-for-17 in the last five games.
3. Boston 2B Dustin Pedroia (knee) sat out Tuesday but is expected to be back in the lineup on Wednesday.
PREDICTION: Red Sox 3, Orioles 1