Orioles-Red Sox Preview

Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter gave pitcher Chris Tillman an extra day off between starts, but he couldn’t be happier to see his impressive right-hander back on the mound.

Tillman will be back in action Friday night as the Orioles begin a four-game set in Boston against the Red Sox and their struggling bats.

"Just thought Tilly could benefit, regardless of who we are facing or where we are down the road," Showalter told the team’s official website. "The thing that’s optimum is his health – and everybody’s."

Tillman (1-1, 0.84 ERA) has allowed two earned runs in three starts this year, exactly the kind of start the Orioles (7-7) were hoping for after his breakout 2013 season. Despite taking the loss, his last outing might have been his best as he held Toronto to two unearned runs on three hits in eight innings of a 2-0 defeat last Friday.

"I told him after the game, that was one of the best I’ve ever seen Tillman throw to be honest with you," center fielder Adam Jones said.

Tillman has also had success against the Red Sox, compiling a 4-1 record with a 2.15 ERA in eight starts since Sept. 28, 2012. That includes a 2-1 win March 31, when he went five innings and allowed Grady Sizemore’s homer.

He’s held David Ortiz to 2 for 19 in their career matchups and will be opposed by John Lackey.

Lackey (2-1, 3.86) won his first two starts, including a victory in Baltimore on April 2 in which he allowed two runs on three hits in six innings. He regressed Saturday, allowing six runs on 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 7-4 road loss to the New York Yankees.

"It’s a long lineup, they’re deep and (I made) just a couple too many mistakes," Lackey told the team’s official website.

Lackey went 2-1 with a 3.34 ERA last season against Baltimore, and he fired a two-hitter in a 3-1 home win versus the Orioles on Sept. 19.

Orioles first baseman Chris Davis, who has reached base in 13 straight games, is a .344 hitter against Lackey in 32 at-bats.

Baltimore heads to Boston (7-9) having swept a rain-shortened home series against Tampa Bay behind some dominant pitching. The Orioles held the Rays to a run on 12 hits in the two games, including Wednesday’s 3-0 victory to give the staff 12 straight scoreless innings.

"It’s not about the hitters, it’s about the starting pitchers setting the tone, and we follow suit," Jones said. "In the last two games, the starters and then our bullpen comes in and shuts them down."

The Red Sox have also won consecutive games after losing their opener against the White Sox. Xander Bogaerts’ solo homer was their only hit off Chicago starter Chris Sale in seven innings on Thursday, but David Ross’ tiebreaking RBI double in the ninth helped lift Boston to a 3-1 victory.

"It was a huge team win," Ross said. "Think about it, the whole game was pitching, defense, timely hitting, tough at-bats, key walks, big homer. It was just an all-around team win. We just had to scrap and claw."

Boston went 14 for 104 in the series and is batting .171 in its last eight games.

First baseman Mike Napoli returned to the lineup after missing Wednesday’s game with a dislocated left ring finger, and reliever Koji Uehara also returned to close it out after Jon Lester went eight innings. Uehara hadn’t pitched since April 9 due to right shoulder discomfort.

Second baseman Dustin Pedroia went 7 for 15 in the season-opening series against Baltimore but is 8 for 50 since, including a 0-for-4 night against Chicago.