Camden Pitching Duel

Two of the AL's best pitchers over the last two months square off Friday when Erik Bedard and the Baltimore Orioles meet Daisuke Matsuzaka and the AL East-leading Boston Red Sox in the opener of a three-game series at Camden Yards.

Bedard (12-4, 3.09 ERA), leading the AL with a 2.53 ERA since June 1, will try to match his career-high, seven-start win streak against Matsuzaka (13-8, 3.70), who's third in the league with a 2.64 ERA in that same stretch.

The Orioles (52-61) have won each of Bedard's nine starts since June 21, with the left-hander going 8-0 with a 2.24 ERA in those games. His six-start win streak is one shy of his career high, set June 16-July 23, 2006.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Boston -109 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 8 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 82% of bets for this game have been placed on Boston -109 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

The Red Sox (69-45), meanwhile, are a modest 6-6 in Matsuzaka's 12 outings since the beginning of June. They entered that month at least 10 games ahead of each of their division rivals, but now lead the second-place New York Yankees by six games.

Matsuzaka will try to extend that lead in his first career start against Baltimore. The Japanese right-hander had a 4.83 ERA through 11 starts of his first season in America, but has lowered his ERA by more than one run with nine quality starts in his last 12 outings.

"He's still getting better," Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek said. "We forget sometimes with how much he's been heralded that he's 26 and this is his first time here."

Matsuzaka held Seattle to two runs and six hits while matching his season high with 10 strikeouts in seven innings of a 4-3 win on Saturday.

"Holding the other team while still allowing a few runners on base, that's my true style," Matsuzaka said through his interpreter. "That's a day in the life for me."

Bedard, who leads the majors with 192 strikeouts, allowed three runs - the most scored against him in more than a month - and nine hits against Tampa Bay on Sunday, but also struck out 11 in 6 2-3 innings of an 11-3 victory.

"We've seen better performances out of him, but the guy has a way of coming up with a big pitch," manager Dave Trembley told the Orioles' official Web site. "He's got guys on second and third and he strikes out back-to-back guys, so you know what he's all about.

"He'll just keep coming at you, and he'll give you everything he's got."

Bedard is 4-4 with a 5.16 ERA in 10 career games, including nine starts, against the Red Sox, but he held them to two runs and two hits in six innings of the Orioles' 5-3 victory July 31 - his lone start against them this season.

Both of Boston's runs against Bedard came on a two-run homer by designated hitter David Ortiz, but the Red Sox could be without their slugger on Friday. Ortiz missed the last game of a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday because of an injury to his left shoulder - the same one he injured trying to stretch a single into a double on July 20 at Fenway Park.

Manager Terry Francona told the team's official Web site that the Red Sox would re-evaluate Ortiz before Friday's game.

"I've been feeling pain the whole time since I injured it," said Ortiz, hitting .319 with 19 home runs and 68 RBIs after leading the AL last season with a franchise-record 54 homers. "When I swing and not make contact with a pitch, it hurts. I think this couple of days will be good for me."

Despite Ortiz's absence, the Red Sox avoided a sweep with a 9-6 victory Wednesday. Dustin Pedroia broke a 6-all tie with a solo home run in the seventh inning as Boston improved to 3-3 on its current road trip, which concludes with this weekend series.

The Red Sox have won 12 of 14 games at Camden Yards since September 2005, including both of their games there this year. Overall, Boston has won six of eight against Baltimore.

Unlike the Red Sox, the Orioles weren't able to avoid a sweep in their last series. They lost 13-8 to Seattle on Thursday - their third straight defeat to the Mariners and their fourth home loss in a row since winning a season-high eight straight home games July 13-28.

by: Dave Michaels - thespread.com – Email Us

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