That may not be entirely fair to Franklin Morales, who has pitched well over the last two months while alternating between the rotation and the bullpen. But the fact remains that manager Bobby Valentine won't allow Morales to go deep in games — he has pitched more than six innings just once this season.
After squandering their chance to make up ground in the playoff chase against two of the American League's bottom four clubs — Boston went 3-5 against the Twins and Indians over the last two weeks — the Sox now face a tough nine-game stretch, with road trips to Baltimore and New York and a homestand against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Although the reward for a series victory is great, as all three teams are above the Red Sox in the playoff race, defeat could be painful, as it would ensure an even wider gap between the Sox and October baseball. With that in mind, let's take a look at the pitchers set to toe the rubber against the Orioles with a chance to be named Amica Pitcher of the Week.
Josh Beckett will take the mound in Tuesday's series opener and is coming off one of his worst outings of the season, a five-inning, eight-run effort against baseball's top offense, the Rangers. Beckett has been inconsistent this season, but he appeared to be figuring things out around midseason, putting together a 2.72 ERA in seven starts from mid-May to late-June.
In six starts since then however, it's been very ugly for Beckett, as the righty has a 1-2 record and a 7.39 ERA. For the most part, Beckett is keeping the ball in the ballpark, and although his walk rate is a little high at 3.69 per nine innings, Beckett's main problem is that he's giving up too many hits: a .320 average against, not helped by a .373 batting average on balls in play. Beckett's opponent will be Wei-Yin Chen, the Orioles' Taiwanese rookie, who has been one of the majors' most pleasant surprises in 2012.
Aaaron Cook gets the nod on Wednesday after a fine outing against the Rangers on Aug. 6. He held Texas' potent bats to just six hits and one run over seven innings, propelling the Red Sox to their only victory in the series. Cook will be well-rested for the encounter with Baltimore's Miguel Gonzalez, as he will have had eight days of rest between starts.
The series finale pits Buchholz against the O's Chris Tillman, and the way Buchholz has been pitching lately, it hardly seems a fair matchup. Buchholz has a 2.08 ERA and 0.90 WHIP since May 27 and is coming off a complete-game, two-hit masterpiece against the Indians on Friday. Tillman was roughed up in his last go-around, surrendering six runs in 5 2/3 innings in a loss to the Royals on Saturday.
Andrew Miller and Alfredo Aceves led the Sox' reliever corps last week, combining for four shutout innings spread across four different games. Although the Sox' bullpen has been pretty average this season — its 3.38 ERA ranks it 13th in MLB — a strong last two months could certainly hope Boston's fading playoff chances.
With six massive games against divisional rivals on tap, who do you think will be this week's Amica Pitcher of the Week?
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