Now 2-5 on a 10-game homestand, the Red Sox are searching for easy pickings. They may find it this weekend when the abysmal Baltimore Orioles come to town for three straight at Fenway Park.
The glory of back-to-back walk-off wins for Boston was washed away in a 3-0 loss to the Texas Rangers on Thursday. It added to the Sox’ worst start since 1996.
Boston managed just six hits — all singles — and spoiled a strong outing for Clay Buchholz, who struck out a career-high 10 in 6 2/3 innings.
But the Orioles have rarely presented much of a challenge to the Sox, and come into town losers of 11 of their last 12 games. They have already scored two or fewer runs eight times this year.
Jon Lester, who has struggled mightily in 2010, is first up to take a stab at Baltimore, a team he has dominated in the past.
WHEN AND WHERE
Orioles (2-14) vs. Red Sox (6-10) Friday, April 23, 7 p.m. (NESN) Fenway Park, Boston
HEAD TO HEAD
Orioles fans look away now. The Red Sox are 55-17 against Baltimore in the last four years.
RHP Jeremy Guthrie (0-2, 3.15 ERA) vs. LHP Jon Lester (0-2, 8.44 ERA)
If there was ever a team that can help Lester get back on track, it is Baltimore. Not only are the Orioles among the worst in the American League in several offensive categories, they have been owned by Lester.
In 12 starts against Baltimore, the Sox southpaw is 10-0 with a 2.39 ERA. He is one of only two pitchers in history to begin a career with a double-digit winning streak against the O’s. Red Faber, of course, was the first, winning 12 straight for the St. Louis Browns from 1914-16.
Not that he would take anyone for granted, but Lester sure could use a weaker opponent. Facing New York, Minnesota and Tampa Bay — the three highest-scoring teams in the AL entering Thursday’s play — he has given up 21 hits and walked nine in 16 innings.
Guthrie has been a hard-luck loser, a victim of Baltimore’s dismal offense. He has struck out 14 and walked just three in 20 innings. Guthrie is 1-5 with a 4.74 ERA against Boston.
Marco Scutaro, SS J.D. Drew, RF Dustin Pedroia, 2B Kevin Youkilis, 1B Victor Martinez, C David Ortiz, DH Adrian Beltre, 3B Jeremy Hermida, LF Josh Reddick, CF
Buchholz became the youngest Red Sox right hander to strike out 10 in a game since Aaron Sele had 11 against Detroit on Sept. 28, 1993.
Boston relievers have tossed 21 straight scoreless innings.
Lester is 2-6 with a 5.46 ERA in 15 career starts in March and April. He is 40-12 with a 3.50 mark in the remaining months of the regular season.
Baltimore’s on-base percentage of .285 is last in the American League. No other team was below .300 entering Thursday’s action.
The O’s are 6-27 since Sept. 17, 2009.
Center fielder Adam Jones is 10-for-19 (.526) in four multi-hit games. He is 4-for-50 (.080) in his 12 other games.
BLACK AND BLUE
A CT scan done on left fielder Jacoby Ellsbury revealed hairline fractures in four ribs. He is eligible to return from the 15-day disabled list April 27. Team officials said his treatment plan will not change and he will resume play only when his symptoms are gone.
Manager Terry Francona said Thursday that Daisuke Matsuzaka will return to the starting rotation next week, but has not confirmed when Matsuzaka will make his 2010 debut. In three rehab starts in the minors while recovering from a neck strain, the right hander was 2-0 with a 1.62 ERA.
Center fielder Mike Cameron was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a sports hernia. His term is retroactive to April 19.
Third baseman Miguel Tejada is expected to return from a strained hip abductor.
Closer Mike Gonzalez will not need surgery on his shoulder. He is expected to start rehab program in Florida and could be ready in mid-March.
Second baseman Brian Roberts went on the DL on April 10 with a strained abdominal muscle. He is out until May.
Outfielder Felix Pie is out three months with a torn muscle in his back.
If Lester is unable to take care of business against the lowly O’s, then the question marks surrounding his slow starts will resurface, and in a big way. He was not a happy camper following Sunday’s six-inning, seven-run outing against Tampa Bay, so look for a pretty determined effort.
Baltimore, meanwhile, is just searching for some kind of spark and will be forced to do so in a house of horrors. The O’s are 7-29 in Fenway the last four years.