Red Sox-Orioles Preview

Brilliant starting pitching has helped the Boston Red Sox move
within one game of .500.

They seem to have a good chance for another strong pitching
performance with Clay Buchholz scheduled to take the ball in
Baltimore.

Buchholz looks to continue his dominance over the Orioles and
lead the Red Sox to a sixth straight win Tuesday night as these AL
East foes begin their season series.

The starting pitchers have lasted at least five innings while
allowing two runs or fewer in each of the last nine games for
Boston (10-11), tying the longest such streak in franchise history,
set in 1946. The Red Sox were 2-10 prior to this stretch, during
which their rotation has a 0.88 ERA.

“It’s a pretty good run, but it’s not unexpected,” John Lackey
said after throwing eight innings in Sunday’s 7-0 win over Los
Angeles. “We’ve got some guys here with some pretty good track
records.”

Buchholz (1-2, 5.31 ERA), for one, has an impressive history
against Baltimore.

The right-hander threw a no-hitter against the Orioles in 2007
and is 3-0 with a 0.32 ERA in his last four starts against
them.

Buchholz’s contributions to Boston’s current pitching run came
Wednesday, when he allowed one run, six hits and four walks in 5
1-3 innings of a 5-3 win in Oakland. Bases on balls have been a bit
of a concern for Buchholz, who has issued 14 walks in 20 1-3
innings.

He’s not the only player in a Red Sox uniform who has regularly
frustrated the Orioles, as Carl Crawford and Kevin Youkilis have
battered Baltimore pitching.

Crawford, who hit his first home run with Boston on Sunday,
batted .381 with 11 extra-base hits in 17 games against the Orioles
last season with Tampa Bay. He’s hit .424 with eight doubles, four
triples and 11 RBIs in his last 15 contests at Camden Yards.

Youkilis hit .370 with six homers and 16 RBIs in 11 games
against the Orioles in 2010. He’s batted .417 with eight home runs
and 23 RBIs over his last 16 contests in Baltimore.

Despite Youkilis’ exploits, the Red Sox split 18 games with the
Orioles in 2010, the first time they didn’t win the season series
since 2004.

While Boston has bounced back following an awful start,
Baltimore has dropped 11 of 13 after opening 6-1.

The Orioles (8-12) showed some grit Sunday against New York,
rallying from a three-run deficit and tying the game on a double by
Brian Roberts with two outs in the ninth, but they lost 6-3 in 11
innings.

“Close isn’t good enough for those guys in that clubhouse,”
manager Buck Showalter told the Orioles’ official website. “They’re
frustrated right now because they know that there’s a very fine
line and we’ll get some breaks to go our way.”

Baltimore’s offense is struggling mightily, plating 27 runs
while batting .213 in its last 11 losses. Facing Buchholz might not
be the best way to get on track.

Nick Markakis, who hit .360 against the Red Sox in 2010, is
batting .139 in his last nine games. He’s 2 for 20 lifetime against
Buchholz, and Luke Scott is 1 for 16.

The Orioles will counter with Zach Britton (3-1, 3.16), who
might give the team its best chance to win. Since April 8, the
Orioles are 2-1 when Britton starts and 1-10 when he doesn’t.

Despite not feeling well against Minnesota on Wednesday, the
left-hander gave up three runs and five hits in six innings of a
5-4 victory, becoming the first rookie starter in franchise history
to win three games before April 21.