Red Sox Sit Atop AL

After a brief setback, the Boston Red Sox have resumed their domination of the Baltimore Orioles.

The Red Sox send knuckleballer Tim Wakefield to the mound Thursday afternoon as they close a three-game series against the Orioles at Fenway Park.

The Orioles won Tuesday's series opener 5-3 behind a strong outing from ace Erik Bedard, and held a 3-1 lead in the seventh inning Wednesday before the Red Sox rallied.

Kevin Youkilis followed David Ortiz's RBI double with a two-run double and Jason Varitek capped the comeback with a run-scoring single.

"It was great just to get that hit," Youkilis said. "It's been frustrating lately (hitting) a lot of balls at people. So I was excited a ball got down for once because I was ready to go nuts."

Baltimore's bullpen suffered its first blown save in six chances since closer Chris Ray went on the disabled list with a right elbow sprain.

"We walked the leadoff guy. That set the table for them," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said.

Jonathan Papelbon worked a perfect ninth for his 24th save in 26 chances. He is 2-0 with seven saves in seven opportunities in his career against the Orioles, pitching 11 1-3 scoreless innings.

Dustin Pedroia had three hits Wednesday for Boston (65-42), which maintained a seven-game lead over the second-place New York Yankees in the AL East.

The Red Sox have won five of seven meetings this season against the Orioles, and are 25-5 in the series since Sept. 2, 2005. Boston hasn't lost a series to Baltimore since dropping three of four at Camden Yards July 7-10, 2005.

Oddsmakers from have made Boston -139 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 9.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 59% of bets for this game have been placed on Boston -139 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Wakefield (12-9, 4.59 ERA) has won two straight starts and improved to 5-1 in his last six with a strong performance in a 7-1 victory at Tampa Bay on Friday. He allowed one run and six hits in six innings with three walks and seven strikeouts.

Wakefield, who has a decision in each of his 21 starts, had surrendered at least four runs in four straight outings before shutting down the Devil Rays.

The knuckleballer is 11-11 with a 3.96 ERA in 29 starts against the Orioles, including 0-2 with a 5.00 ERA in the last three.

Baltimore's Miguel Tejada is batting .318 (21-for-66) with five home runs against Wakefield.

Nick Markakis and Tejada hit solo homers Wednesday for the Orioles (50-56), who lost for only the second time in nine games. Baltimore is 3-13 in its last 16 games at Boston.

Impressive rookie Jeremy Guthrie (7-3, 2.89) takes the mound for Baltimore. The right-hander has rebounded from his worst start of the season by going 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA in his last three outings. He limited the Yankees to two runs and six hits in six innings Friday in a 4-2 victory.

As well as he has pitched at home, Guthrie has been even better on the road, going 4-0 with a 1.57 ERA in eight starts. He has allowed two earned runs or fewer in seven of those games.

Guthrie was dominant in his first career start against the Red Sox on May 13, holding them to one unearned run and three hits in 8 1-3 innings. He did not record a victory after the Orioles' bullpen blew the game in the ninth.

by: Michael Cash - – Email Us

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