A three-game winning streak has helped give the Boston Red Sox a cushion atop the AL East.
Giving John Lackey some support offensively may help them increase that lead.After a pair of offensive outbursts in their most recent victories, the Red Sox look to keep rolling at the plate Wednesday night as they continue this three-game set with the visiting Baltimore Orioles.Boston (78-55) was tied with Tampa Bay for first place in the division on Sunday, but winning three games in a row -- while putting up 20 runs in their last two -- has moved the Red Sox 2 1/2 games clear of the Rays.They'll now turn to Lackey (8-11, 3.17 ERA) as they look for their first four-game winning streak since the All-Star break.After missing all of last season due to Tommy John surgery, Lackey's ERA is his lowest since a career-best 3.01 with the Los Angeles Angels in 2007. He's also averaging a personal-low 1.95 walks per nine innings.The right-hander, though, owns a losing record thanks in part to being backed by an average of 2.4 runs over his past nine games, getting none in five of those.He's 2-6 with a 3.67 ERA over that stretch, and could've used some help in Friday's 2-0 defeat to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Lackey allowed a two-run homer in the fourth while tossing a three-hitter as the offense mustered a pair of singles."That's about as good as I've felt this year. I had everything pretty much working for me," Lackey said. "It's frustrating when one pitch can decide a game."He's split two starts versus Baltimore (70-60) with a 4.73 ERA, but those meetings came on the road. In nine starts at Fenway Park this season, Lackey is 5-2 with a 2.07 ERA that's the AL's second-best mark at home.He's getting 5.16 runs of support per nine innings at home, and could be in for some more help after Boston pounded out 14 hits, including five doubles and three homers, en route to a 13-2 win over the Orioles in this series opener.Shane Victorino is hitting .444 with four homers, five doubles and 11 RBIs in his last nine games. He's hit three of those homers while collecting five hits in the past two contests, and left Fenway twice while producing a career-high seven RBIs and four runs Tuesday.The Orioles are 3 1/2 games back of Oakland for the AL's second wild-card spot, but have dropped four of seven after matching their season high for runs allowed Tuesday."We got our butts kicked, and there's no doubt about that, but it's over now. We're (looking) forward and we're ready to go (Wednesday)," catcher Matt Wieters told the team's official website.Bud Norris (9-10, 4.22) will get the ball for the Orioles as he tries to put his worst start with his new team behind him. The right-hander was battered for seven runs, nine hits and two homers in 4 2/3 innings of a 9-7 win over Oakland on Friday.He's allowed 25 baserunners over 10 1/3 innings in his last two outings after yielding just 21 over 17 innings in his first three starts with Baltimore.He's 0-1 with a 5.25 ERA in two career starts versus the Red Sox, and that defeat came in his only visit to Fenway Park on April 28. He allowed five runs -- three earned -- while fanning six in six innings of a 6-1 loss with the Astros.
John Lackey has the second-best ERA (2.07) at home for any AL pitcher with at least five starts. Lackey uses a breaking ball (curveball or slider) on 38.6 percent of his pitches at Fenway, with opponents hitting .198. The Orioles have the second-best OPS (.697) against breaking balls this season.