Leading Off: Red Sox Return to Winning Ways

Leading Off: Red Sox Return to Winning Ways After carrying a five-game losing streak into the opener of their three-game weekend series with the Orioles at Fenway Park, the Red Sox got back on track Friday night. The second-place Sox beat the Orioles, 3-1, winning for their first time in almost a week behind a solid effort from Brad Penny, who earned his first win in a month. The Sox are still chasing the Yankees for first place in the American League East, however, and they'll need to keep the wins coming.

When and Where
7:10 p.m. ET (NESN), July 25, 2009
Fenway Park, Boston, Mass.

Records
Red Sox (56-39, 2nd place in AL East)
Orioles (41-54, 5th place in AL East)

Skinny
The Orioles have relied for years on a young and untested pitching staff, and it still hasn't begun to pay off. The team appears headed for another season in last place in the AL East — there's promise in their young arms like Brad Bergesen, Friday's starter, and fellow young gun Jason Berken, but this O's team still has a long way to go. The O's aren't going anywhere this year, but there's hope for the future since their lineup includes rising stars Nick Markakis, Adam Jones and Matt Wieters.

Starting Lineup

Red Sox Orioles
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF Brian Roberts, 2B
Dustin Pedroia, 2B Nick Markakis, RF
J.D. Drew, RF Adam Jones, CF
Jason Bay, LF Aubrey Huff, DH
David Ortiz, DH Nolan Reimold, LF
Mike Lowell, 3B Ty Wigginton, 1B
Adam LaRoche, 1B Melvin Mora, 3B
Jason Varitek, C Matt Wieters, C
Nick Green, SS Cesar Izturis, SS

Pitching Matchup
LHP Jon Lester (8-7, 3.87 ERA) vs. RHP Jeremy Guthrie (7-8, 5.12 ERA)

While all five Red Sox pitchers were losers during the team's five-game skid, Lester was a rare bright spot, allowing just five hits in seven innings of work, although he lost 3-1. Lester has delivered five straight quality starts for the Red Sox, a streak stretching back to the middle of June, as he continues his return to the form that made him a 16-game winner last year.

With 137 strikeouts this season, Lester ranks second in the American League. He continues to establish himself as one of the game's premier young power pitchers.

As for Guthrie, the 30-year-old righty has seen better days. He had back-to-back strong seasons for the Orioles in 2007 and '08, posting ERAs of 3.70 and 3.63 while staying mostly healthy, but that figure has ballooned to 5.12 this season, as he just refuses to keep men off base. Guthrie only recently snapped a streak of five consecutive multi-walk games.

Stat Sheet
Red Sox

The Red Sox have a run differential of plus-77. That figure is tied with the Yankees for the AL's best and is also just one run ahead of the Rays.

The Red Sox are third in the AL in walks, with 387, and fourth in on-base percentage, at .346.

Jon Lester has owned the Orioles in his career, going 8-0 in 10 career starts. He has an ERA of 2.18 in 62 innings of work against them.

Adam LaRoche posted a .770 OPS in 87 games this season with the Pirates. He had 12 home runs and 40 RBIs.

Jed Lowrie is 2-for-10 (.200) since his return from injury a week ago. He hit his first home run of 2009 on July 18.

Jacoby Ellsbury has 42 stolen bases this season. He has been caught just seven times.

Jason Bay has 20 home runs this season, but he hasn't gone deep since July 7.

Dustin Pedroia has scored 69 runs this season. The only AL player over 70 is the Angels' Chone Figgins, with 75.

David Ortiz has 24 home runs and 95 RBIs in his career against the Orioles.

J.D. Drew is a .359 hitter against them; he has seven home runs in just 103 at-bats.

Kevin Youkilis is a .211 career hitter against Jeremy Guthrie. He has just one extra-base hit in 19 at-bats, a double.

Jason Varitek is a .273 hitter against Guthrie. In 11 at-bats, he has two singles and a home run.

Orioles
The Orioles have allowed 501 runs this season. The only other AL team over 500 is Cleveland (528).

Jeremy Guthrie has faced the Red Sox nine times in his career, eight as a starter. He has a 4.01 ERA in 49.1 innings.

Luke Scott has a .560 slugging percentage this season, sixth in the AL.

Adam Jones has 235 hits in 218 games with the Orioles since the beginning of 2008.

Matt Wieters' batting line in 35 major league games is .244/.301/.374. He has just nine extra-base hits in 123 at-bats.

Aubrey Huff is a .276 career hitter against the Red Sox. He has 13 home runs in 526 at-bats.

Nick Markakis is a .273 career hitter against Jon Lester. He has two singles and four doubles in 22 at-bats.

Melvin Mora is hitting just .176 for his career against Lester.

Black and Blue
Red Sox

Tim Wakefield was placed on the 15-day disabled list on July 18 with a strained lower back. He expects to be back to 100 percent by the time he's eligible to return next week.

Daisuke Matsuzaka is working to recover from a strained right shoulder. Manager Terry Francona told the Herald recently that his shoulder strength "has improved vastly."

Jeff Bailey was placed on the 15-day DL on July 5 with a high ankle sprain in his left leg.

Orioles
Chris Ray was placed on the 15-day DL on July 6 with tendinitis in his right biceps.

Alfredo Simon was placed on the 15-day DL on April 15 with a right elbow injury. He has undergone surgery and is presumed out for the season.

Lou Montanez was placed on the 15-day DL on May 23, expecting to miss six to eight weeks. He is currently recovering from right thumb surgery.

This Date in Red Sox History
In 1954, White Sox pitcher Jack Harshman set a club record by striking out 16 Red Sox in a single game. Five years later, Harshman was pitching for the Red Sox.

Overheard

"I'm obviously loving it, that's an understatement. I've heard about this organization my whole career, and to come check it out for myself is pretty neat."
Adam LaRoche in Friday's Globe. LaRoche, a recent acquisition from the Pittsburgh Pirates, is loving Boston so far.

The Press Box
Red Sox

The losing streak has come to an end.

Adam LaRoche is happy in Boston.

Mark Kotsay will make way for LaRoche.

Orioles
The Orioles fell just short.

What trade chips do the O's have?

The club still has some work to do on signing its draft picks.

MLB

Good start for Matt Holliday in St. Louis.

The Yankees win once again.

It takes a true gamer to pitch through swine flu.

Outlook
After a difficult losing streak, there's no remedy quite like a winning streak. The Sox continued their dominance of the Orioles in Friday's season opener, and they'll have a chance to keep that dominance going with Jon Lester on the mound Saturday night. The last-place Orioles are the right opponents for busting a slump, especially with the Sox home at Fenway Park. A great pitcher, a great ballpark and a divisional doormat — now there's a winning combination.

TMZ logo

© 2018 NESN

Partner of USATODAY Sports Digital Properties