BOSTON RED SOX (69-87)
at BALTIMORE ORIOLES (89-67)
First pitch: Friday, 7:05 p.m. EDT
Line: Baltimore -210, Boston +195, Total: 9
The Orioles look to inch closer to their first playoff berth in 15 years when they host the slumping Red Sox for a weekend series starting Friday.
Baltimore enters play Friday just one game behind the Yankees in the AL East, but sits three games ahead of both the Rays and Angels in the Wild Card race. After going 7-1 over an eight-game stretch, the Orioles have cooled down with losses in two of their past three games. Boston has continued its miserable second half, now the losers of six of their past seven. The offense has been particularly putrid in that span, averaging just 3.0 runs per game with the pitching surrendering 6.1 runs per game. And those pitching numbers do not figure to get better with Aaron Cook on the mound, who in three career starts against the Orioles, all of which came this year, is 0-2 (team 0-3) with a 8.78 ERA and 1.95 WHIP. And heís facing Chris Tillman, who has found his groove with a 2.40 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in his past three starts. Even as heavy favorites, take BALTIMORE to win this one.
This pair of three-star FoxSheets trends also favor the Orioles:
Play Against - Road teams (BOSTON) - below average hitting team (AVG <=.265) against an excellent starting pitcher (ERA <=3.20) -AL, with an on base percentage of .300 or worse over their last 15 games. (94-36 over the last 5 seasons.) (72.3%, +42.2 units. Rating = 3*).
Play On - Home teams when the money line is +125 to -125 (BALTIMORE) - allowing 4.7 or less runs/game on the season (AL), after a win by 8 runs or more. (39-16 over the last 5 seasons.) (70.9%, +23 units. Rating = 3*).
For the season, Cook has a 5.13 ERA, 1.40 WHIP and 4-10 record in 17 starts in which the Red Sox are just 5-12. Cook has an incredibly low 20 strikeouts in 93 innings this year, but he makes it work by limiting his walks, of which he has yielded just 18 this season. Despite this pinpoint control, he does not pitch deep into games, averaging just 5.5 innings per start, but that lets the Boston bullpen do its work, one of the teamís lone bright spots. Red Sox relievers have a serviceable 3.80 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 2012 with a 21-20 record.
The Orioles have owned the Red Sox this season, winning 10 of the seriesí 15 games. Tillman has been no help, earning no-decision losses in both of his starts against Beantown this year despite a 3.38 ERA. In his career, he is 0-1 (team 0-4) in four career starts versus the Red Sox, but has not pitched terribly with a 4.24 ERA. On the season, Tillman has an impressive 3.08 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. He has started just 13 times, but the Orioles are 9-4 in those outings. In his past five starts (four versus the top-8 offenses in the majors), he is 3-0 with a 2.20 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and .173 opp. BA. He should have no problem beating reeling Boston here.