Red Sox could pad division lead in series against Orioles
BALTIMORE -- The Boston Red Sox are in the driver's seat in the American League East and can further distance themselves atop the standings in a three-game series against the free-falling Baltimore Orioles beginning Monday at Camden Yards.
The Red Sox remain one of the hottest teams in baseball after winning two of three against the Detroit Tigers during the weekend.
Boston is 9-1 against Baltimore this season, but Red Sox manager Alex Cora is not taking anything for granted
"There's a few good teams out there, that they're going to make it interesting in the second half," Cora said. "I still feel we can be better. We've still got some challenges in front of us. Just because we had a good first half of the season doesn't mean we're going to go all the way."
The Orioles traded third baseman Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers during the All-Star break and the second half of the season looks even bleaker. Baltimore was swept in a three-game weekend series by the Toronto Blue Jays. Tim Beckham, who moved from third base to shortstop, had costly errors in each of the first two games before the Orioles allowed four runs in the eighth inning during Sunday's 5-4 loss.
Baltimore is playing for pride at this point.
"The won-loss record is bad, but I think at the same time there's a lot of guys who are motivated to have a good second half and kind of right the ship as much as they can," Orioles designated hitter Mark Trumbo said. "Obviously for the team, but personally, too. Some of the younger players that are kind of fighting to establish themselves. As players, that's motivation in and of itself."
Rick Porcello (11-4, 4.13 ERA) will start for the Red Sox in the opener. He struggled in his last outing, allowing eight runs and seven hits against the Blue Jays.
"I had a terrible night, that's for sure, but at the same time, our ballclub's playing real well right now," Porcello said after the loss to Toronto. "I'm not going to let one bad night affect what we're doing and keep moving forward."
Porcello is 5-11 with a 4.86 ERA in 19 career starts against Baltimore. However, he posted a win against the Orioles on May 19.
Boston will get a boost with the return of second baseman Brock Holt, who left Friday's game against Detroit with a bruised knee and was held out for the remainder of the series.
Kevin Gausman (4-7, 4.33) will pitch the opener for the Orioles. He had an uneven first half of the season. In his last outing, he allowed five runs and 12 hits in five innings against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Gausman plans to do whatever he can to get the Orioles back on track despite being out of playoff contention and without their biggest superstar.
"I think you've just got to go out and compete," Gausman said. "I think everybody here has been embarrassed by how we've played this year in the first half and how far back we are, so we're playing for our pride.
"Our playoff hopes are done. It's about surviving and trying to build something going into next season. And obviously, we're going to have some different guys around here the second half than we had the first half. We'll adjust from that and see where it takes us."
Gausman is 4-7 with a 4.25 ERA in 19 appearances (14 starts) against Boston. He also took the loss against the Red Sox on May 17.
Updated July 22, 2018