Red Sox manager Terry Francona was asked before the Baltimore series if he felt any trepidation about facing the Orioles. At 2-14 entering the three-game set, Baltimore was due for a win one of these days, right?
"They can beat us if we don?t play good," Francona replied in a brutally simplistic statement.
Maybe Francona should have elaborated a bit. Against the O?s, sometimes you just need to play "good enough," a style the Sox have mastered of late.
Saturday?s 7-6 win over Baltimore was a case in point. Boston was outhit 17-9, committed the game?s only error, trailed for nearly seven innings and gave up three runs on four straight hits in the ninth in a near-collapse.
"If we play like that?we have to guard against that," Francona said after the game, issuing a bit of a warning to a team that has earned each of its last four wins by just one run.
Two of those victories required walk-off hits, one a bases-loaded walk to force in a go-ahead run and Saturday a rally and then a hang-on-for-dear-life save by Jonathan Papelbon.
While the Sox have done just enough to get by, the results must be downright maddening for the Orioles, who just cannot get over the hump.
The Sox have now won 10 straight in the series, tied for the club?s third-longest streak ever against Baltimore. They are 57-17 when facing the O?s since 2006. In two straight nights and in four of the last five they?ve wrestled away wins in the final frames, scoring the eventual winning run in the seventh inning or later each time.
"It?s nice to get a win," said shortstop Marco Scutaro, whose three-run homer in the seventh put Boston ahead to stay. "We?ve been playing pretty bad as a team. We need to start being a little more consistent and just turn things around a little bit."
The latter half of that statement sounds a lot like one a player would deliver after a loss. Perhaps Scutaro knows the Sox are living dangerously. Such was the case Saturday.
On the strength of left-hander Brian Matusz, the O?s carried a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh, when Bill Hall and Jeremy Hermida reached to start things off. Pinch hitter David Ortiz struck out before Scutaro?s blast gave the club its first crooked number in 33 innings.
A double and a walk preceded another home run by Kevin Youkilis and all of a sudden a dormant offense had awoken. In order to one day have a relaxing win, the club might want some of that juice early on in games.
"We will at some point," catcher Jason Varitek said when asked when an easy night might come. "Obviously our offense hasn?t clicked on all cylinders, so those days will come."
Until they do, the Sox have to take the wins when, and how, they come.
"The music?s playing downstairs [in the clubhouse]," Francona said. "That?s good enough."
This time, Francona nailed it.