The Sox would love to head down to Tampa Bay for their three-game set on Monday in first place.
A weekend sweep of the Orioles would likely guarantee that reality.
Boston took Game 1 of the set 3-2 in an uncharacteristically quick clash that lasted only 2 hours, 7 minutes (the Sox' shortest of the season).
The Orioles, obviously struggling all year, have actually been decent of late, going 5-5 over their last ten.
With the red-hot Jon Lester on the hill, Boston will be confident about their chances.
WHEN AND WHERE
Orioles (24-55) at Red Sox (48-32) Saturday, July 3, 7:10 p.m. (NESN) Fenway Park, Boston
HEAD TO HEAD
Baltimore and Boston have split the season series five wins apiece.
RHP Jeremy Guthrie (3-9, 4.30 ERA) vs. RHP Jon Lester (9-3, 2.86 ERA)
Jon Lester will be looking to tie Clay Buchholz for the team lead with 10 wins. That looks like a good bet, given that Lester is 11-0 in his career against the O's, and is 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two outings against Baltimore so far this year.
Guthrie's nine losses are a little harsh considering his respectable 4.30 ERA, but he's struggled mightily against the Red Sox with a career 1-6 mark. Baltimore has lost the last eight games that Guthrie has started.
Marco Scutaro, SS Eric Patterson, LF David Ortiz, DH Kevin Youkilis, 1B J.D. Drew, RF Adrian Beltre, 3B Daniel Nava, RF Mike Cameron, CF Kevin Cash, C
Corey Patterson, LF Miguel Tejada, 3B Nick Markakis, RF Ty Wigginton, 1B Adam Jones, CF Matt Wieters, C Jake Fox, DH Julio Lugo, 2B Cesar Izturis, SS
Jon Lester needed only 102 pitches to beat the San Francisco Giants in his last outing.
With his save Friday night, Jonathan Papelbon moved into third place on the AL save leaderboard with 19. He is just two behind leaders Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz.
The Sox lead the majors with 438 runs.
Kevin Millwood is tied for fifth for career wins among active pitchers with 157.
The Orioles are 28th in the majors in runs with 276, 162 behind the Sox.
The O's are tied for last in the majors with a 5.03 ERA.
BLACK AND BLUE
Jason Varitek (foot) and Manny Delcarmen (forearm) were placed on the 15-day disabled list Friday.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia was placed on the 15-day disabled list last Saturday with a fracture in his left foot. He suffered the injury when he fouled a ball off his foot the day before. He will not put any weight on the foot for 2-3 weeks before being re-examined.
Catcher Victor Martinez was put on the DL on Tuesday with a minimally displaced fracture on the tip of his left thumb, suffered after taking two foul balls off the thumb during Sunday's game in San Francisco.
Clay Buchholz suffered a left hamstring strain running the bases last Saturday in San Francisco. He will not pitch this weekend, but the Red Sox are hopeful he will return to the rotation by Monday or Tuesday.
Outfielder Jeremy Hermida was placed on the DL on June 11 after an MRI revealed five fractured ribs, the result of a collision with third baseman Adrian Beltre one week earlier. Hermida is swinging and doing outfield and base running drills.
An MRI conducted June 9 revealed a new fracture in outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury's ribs. Ellsbury, who was placed on the DL on May 28 for the second time this year, has been at the Athletes' Performance center in Arizona for three weeks but has yet to resume baseball activities.
Josh Beckett is expected to begin a rehab assignment soon as he works his way back from a lower back strain.
Infielder Jed Lowrie remains on the DL after coming down with mononucleosis during spring training. He is playing in extended spring training games.
Righty Junichi Tazawa underwent Tommy John surgery in March. He is out for the year.
Second baseman Brian Roberts is out until at least mid-July. He's played in just four games all season.
Outfielder Luke Scott was placed on the disabled list Thursday with a strained left hamstring.
Pitcher Mike Gonzalez is out until mid-July with a strained left shoudler.
Outfielder Felix Pie is on his way back from a back injury, but he's not expected to be ready for this weekend's series.
The Red Sox are just a half-game out of first place and can complete their climb from division afterthought to best team in the majors with a win and a Yankees loss on Saturday.
Given New York's tough matchup against Toronto ace Ricky Romero (2.83 ERA) and Boston's game with the league's worst team, that looks like a distinct possibility.
With Lester on the mound, the Red Sox need to capitalize on this opportunity.