Red Sox 3-1, FINAL: Jonathan Papelbon throws a 1-2-3 ninth and the Red Sox have lowered the magic number to 11. Texas was losing to the Angels 2-0 in the sixth, so the number could be down to 10 by evening's end. Another solid effort from Clay Buchholz, as the pitching staff continues to prime itself for October.
Mid 9th, Red Sox 3-1: Old friend Cla Meredith pitches the Orioles' only 1-2-3 inning and now it's … I LOST MY LEG!
End 8th, Red Sox 3-1: Hideki Okajima throws the first 1-2-3 inning for either team, leaving the Red Sox three outs away from lowering the magic number to 11.
Mid 8th, Red Sox 3-1: Casey Kotchman makes the most of his rare start, going 3-for-4 with an RBI. Hideki Okajima is coming in to pitch the eighth.
End 7th, Red Sox 3-1: Even Bard can't work a clean inning, allowing a one-out walk. But he comes back with two strikeouts to end the inning. Meanwhile, the Angels lead the Rangers 2-0 in the fourth. The magic number could be down to 10 by the end of the night.
Mid 7th, Red Sox 3-1: Victor Martinez extended his hitting streak to 17 games in the third inning, and he adds a second single in the seventh. Daniel Bard is coming to pitch, after Clay Buchholz goes six, allowing one run on five hits with three walks and one strikeout in his best performance ever at Camden Yards.
End 6th, Red Sox 3-1: Another inning, another hit against Buchholz. But the Orioles still cannot string a rally together, as Luke Scott grounds out after Matt Wieters' two-out single. Buchholz is at 95 pitches, so probably one more before the bullpen comes to the rescue.
Mid 6th, Red Sox 3-1: Whether Jason Bay or Josh Reddick, the No. 6 spot in the order is the offense tonight. Bay scored both times he batted tonight, and now Reddick scores after a leadoff single, with Jacoby Ellsbury driving him home with two outs, knocking Guthrie from the game.
End 5th, Red Sox 2-1: Buchholz has yet to have a clean inning in this game, walking two in the fifth. But a 4-6-3 double play prevents the Orioles from taking advantage, although Buchholz is already up to 81 pitches.
Mid 5th, Red Sox 2-1: Jason Bay fouled a ball off his leg just before his homer, and he could be seen wincing in the dugout after rounding the bases. Apparently, the injury is serious enough that Josh Reddick has replaced him.
End 4th, Red Sox 2-1: Buchholz gets in his first major jam of the night, but works out of it to keep the lead. The Orioles had runners at the corners with one out, but Buchholz won a long battle with Luke Scott, getting a pop-up behind second, then retired Ty Wigginton on a fly to center.
Mid 4th, Red Sox 2-1: Doesn't it always happen that the guy who makes all three put-outs leads off the next inning with a homer? Jason Bay is now one shy of his career high 35, and he's two RBI shy of his high of 109, both in 2006.
End 3rd, 1-1: Jason Bay is a busy man in the third inning, making all three put-outs. And doesn't it always happen that the guy who makes all the put-outs leads off the next inning? Isn't baseball kooky that way?
Mid 3rd, 1-1: Looked for a moment like the Red Sox would re-take the lead, as Victor Martinez boomed a double off the wall in left center with Dustin Pedroia running from first. But the Orioles got the ball back in quickly, and Pedoria stopped around second, and that proved a deadly combo at the plate. To make matters worse, Martinez gets left stranded at second with one out.
End 2nd, 1-1: Buchholz has his changeup working tonight, but Luke Scott was looking for one, and he launched it over the scoreboard in right to tie the score. Buchholz answers the two-out blast with his first strikeout, but his Camden career ERA remains in double-digits (10.32).
Mid 2nd, Red Sox 1-0: Guthrie gets himself in trouble with walks, and Casey Kotchman makes him pay with an RBI single to right. But a chance for more fizzles, as Jacoby Ellsbury is rung up on a check swing for strike three. Clearly, the umpires are intimidated at a half-empty Camden Yards.
End 1st, 0-0: Clay Buchholz has had two of his best games ever against Baltimore: The 2007 no-hitter and his seven-inning shutout last week. But overall, Buchholz has struggled against the Birds, especially at Camden Yards, where he owns a career ERA over 11. But so far, so good tonight. Brian Roberts singles with two outs, but Nick Markakis lines out to deep center to end the inning.
Mid 1st, 0-0: Jeremy Guthrie will always be the guy who got yanked in the Mother's Day Miracle, but before that happened, he dominated that Sunday in May at Fenway Park. He's off to a good start tonight, shrugging off a leadoff single and stolen base by Jacoby Ellsbury, not letting the next three hitters leave the infield.
6:30 p.m.: Kevin Youkilis is back in the lineup tonight, after missing the past three games with back spams (not kidney stones!). Youkilis will be at third base, but not because Victor Martinez is playing first. That position is manned tonight by Casey Kotchman, as Terry Francona looks to keep his reserve infielder sharp two weeks out from the Division Series. Martinez, of course, is catching Clay Buchholz, which has become a highly-charged battery the past month.
3:30 p.m.: The Red Sox embark on the final road trip of the regular season, starting a 10-game, three-city tour in Baltimore, with Clay Buchholz looking to continue his late-season revival. The magic number to clinch the wild card over Texas sits at 12, but because of a quirk in the schedule, one of those 12 is already accounted for.
Because the Rangers and Angels still play each other seven more times, and because the Angels hold a six-game lead in the loss column, the second-place team in the AL West is guaranteed to lose a minimum of 66 games. More specifically, even if Texas wins out the rest of the season, that would mean the Angels (87-59) would lose all seven games to the Rangers and fall into second place with at least 66 losses. That means the Red Sox (86-59) would need just 11 victories over its final 17 games to reach 97 and clinch the wild card, regardless of the finish in the West.
So put the overall magic number over the AL West second place team at 12. But the magic win number for the Red Sox is 11. Got it? Good. There will be a quiz later.