The Boston Red Sox (57-60, 28-26 away) have been mired in drama over the past few weeks, with players verging on mutiny, and many BoSox fans calling for the head of 1st year manager Bobby Valentine. However, with a Wild Card race running full steam ahead, and with just over 45 games remaining on the regular season schedule, Boston will look to pull its socks up starting tonight, getting a chance to move a little closer to the AL Wild Card-leading Baltimore Orioles (63-53, 31-28 home), who walked away with a Game 1 win in this pivotal 3-game series between division rivals. Sitting 6.5 games out of contention with Baltimore and Tampa Bay, Boston will look to get even in this week’s series, and try gain some ground on an O’s team that is 7-3 against Boston so far this season.
The biggest hurdle for Boston to overcome down the stretch is their starting pitching, which for lack of a better word has been awful. Tonight’s starter, Aaron Cook (3-5, 4.70 ERA), embodies that notion, posting an 0-4 record with a 5.79 ERA in 4 starts before finally bouncing back with a win on August 6th. Pitching a solid 7 innings with just 1 run allowed at home against Texas, Cook will try to parlay his success 9 days ago, but may struggle with a Baltimore team that is hitting .302 against him, and sent him out of his last start against them after just 2 2/3 innings of work via 6 earned runs on 8 hits. Cook does appear to have gotten his sinkerball back in working order, evident in his 15 ground balls in 21 outs against Texas last week, and in order for Boston to not be caught digging themselves out of another hole dug by their starting pitching, Cook will have to be sharp early, and work around some key bats in the hands of Wilson Betemit (5-for-9 against Cook), and Adam Jones (1-for-2, home run), the latter of whom is hitting .340 in August, and is overdue for a long ball (.296, 24 homers, 58 RBI) with none coming so far this month. Baltimore clutched up behind Mark Reynolds late in yesterday’s 7-1 win for the O’s, so aside from starting pitching, Boston will need to string together a complete pitching performance, and avoid letting up if it’s to be a close scoring game tonight.
For the O’s on the mound tonight, Boston will see one of their former relief pitchers in Miguel Gonzalez (4-2, 3.42 ERA), who comes in off an impressive 8 inning, 1 run effort in a win over Kansas City 5 days ago. Gonzalez is now 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA over his last three outings, which should have Baltimore confident in his abilities against his former team. In his only appearance of the season against Boston, Gonzalez pitched 4 innings of relief, allowing just 1 run in a 7-0 Boston win. He’ll first and foremost have to keep an eye out for Jacob Ellsbury, who walks into tonight’s game with a massive 37-game hitting streak against Baltimore, batting .416 in the process. That streak is the longest of any BoSox player against any other team, and it’d seem almost fitting that a former Red Sox pitcher would be the one to end the streak tonight. Gonzalez should look to also keep the ball on the ground, as he typically is a flyball pitcher – something that won’t suit him well against a Boston team that is looking to produce some runs from the early going with big swings. If Gonzalez can keep the walks down (he’s allowed 2 or more in 6 out of his last 8 starts), and stay away from hot hitters like Cody Ross (.360 in August), Adrian Gonzalez (.388 in August) and Dustin Pedroia (also .388 for August), he’ll be well on his way towards his third straight victory, and a 7.5 game lead for his team over the Red Sox in the Wild Card standings.
Betting lines for Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles at WagerWeb sportsbook.
Behind the former Boston pitcher Miguel Gonzalez, the Orioles are given -132 odds as favorites to take a second straight game against Boston this season. After suffering season-series losses to the Red Sox for 8 years, Baltimore will seek to go 8-3 against them this year, and solidify a season-series win for just the second time since 1996. While Boston may be tempting with +112 odds as underdogs to bounce back, their clubhouse drama, poor starting pitching and Baltimore’s drive to guarantee a series win and a season-series victory should have you looking towards the O’s straight up tonight.
Against the spread, again Baltimore is an intriguing option, getting +160 odds to cover -1 ½ runs as the favorite. Great pitching led the way last night to 7-1 spread-covering win for the O’s, and since we jumped on that yesterday, we’ll hope to parlay the success into today’s game, and take them to cover once again with good-paying odds. Boston with the -180 odds to stay within 1 ½ runs just simply isn’t worth the wager considering their recent troubles on the mound and in this series this season.
For the total runs line, the bookmakers at WagerWeb have taken full note of the pitching lined up tonight, and extended the over/under to 9 ½ runs. This is a risky proposition for under pickers, considering Aaron Cook’s shortcomings, but with Baltimore going 8-2 in their last 10 games, and excelling on their own starting pitching, your best bet may be to expect the O’s staff to prevent Boston from adding enough runs to clip the over bet on total runs. Under 9 ½ gets you -105 odds, Over, -115, so if you’re feeling saucy look out for a good chance that Baltimore will repeat last night’s win, putting up late runs and holding the Sox frustratingly in check yet again.