Orioles-Red Sox Preview

Tempers flared between the Red Sox and Orioles in Boston’s

second straight blowout victory in the series.

Boston may have bigger concerns, though, than possible Baltimore

retribution.

John Lackey will try to bounce back after yet another poor

outing – the shortest of his Red Sox career – as the AL East rivals

continue their four-game set at Fenway Park on Saturday night.

After opening this series with a 10-4 rout Thursday, the Red Sox

(53-35) jumped on Zach Britton for eight first-inning runs Friday

and cruised to a 10-3 victory. David Ortiz hit a three-run homer to

highlight the big opening inning.

Things got ugly in the eighth when Ortiz took exception to

Baltimore closer Kevin Gregg throwing inside on two pitches. On the

second, Ortiz started to the mound and players from both benches

and bullpens came onto the field, although nothing developed.

Things quickly escalated, though, after Gregg got Ortiz to fly

out on a 3-0 pitch. Gregg said he yelled at Ortiz for not running

toward first and the Red Sox designated hitter met the Baltimore

reliever halfway between the mound and the first-base line where

the two exchanged punches that never connected. The benches and

bullpens cleared again and the brawl took several minutes to settle

down.

“I think you show them that we’re not backing down. We’re not

scared of them – them and their $180 million payroll,” Gregg said.

“We don’t care. We’re here to play the game. We have just as much

right to play the game here and we’re going to do everything we can

to win.”

While both teams wait for word on possible punishments, Boston,

which has eight homers in the series, will go for its fifth

straight win Saturday. The AL East-leading Red Sox have won eight

of nine, averaging 6.7 runs.

Baltimore (36-50), meanwhile, has been outscored 50-18 during a

five-game losing streak. The team’s starters are 0-4 with a 12.00

ERA during that stretch, allowing 36 hits in 18 innings.

The Red Sox may need their offense to produce in a big way again

with the struggling Lackey (5-8, 7.47 ERA) on the mound. The

right-hander lost his third straight start Monday, giving up seven

runs and nine hits in 2 1-3 innings in a 9-7 defeat to Toronto.

That outing pushed Lackey’s ERA to 9.45 during the three-game

skid. He is 3-4 with a 9.17 ERA in seven home starts this

season.

Lackey and the Red Sox denied reports last week that he needed

Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, and manager Terry Francona

reiterated that opinion after Lackey’s latest start.

“Again, we’ve been through everything,” Francona told Boston’s

official website. “We put him on the disabled list because of the

elbow. His velocity is staying pretty much consistent. I think at

times, movement and location is what probably bothered him,

consistency, things like that. We certainly check with everyone all

the time.”

Lackey is 10-4 with a 3.05 ERA in 17 starts against the Orioles,

going 2-1 with a 2.80 ERA in five with the Red Sox.

The Orioles will hand the ball to Alfredo Simon (1-1, 4.64), who

will make his fourth career start and first since 2009 when he blew

out his right elbow and had to undergo Tommy John surgery.

Simon hasn’t pitched more than 4 2-3 innings in seven relief

appearances this year. He went 4 1-3 at Texas on Monday, allowing

six runs and nine hits.

The right-hander pitched five innings of relief against the Red

Sox last year, giving up three runs and two hits in six

appearances.

Boston is 23-7 at home against Baltimore since the start of the

2008 season.