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TB@BAL: Guthrie sharp, fans 10 over seven innings

It is baseball contenders' recurring nightmare: Late-season encounters with also-rans, playing loose and menacingly.

The Red Sox hope to avoid having both a daymare and a nightmare on Monday, when they host the Orioles in a day-night Fenway Park doubleheader.

The Orioles gave the American League West-combatant Angels all they could handle over the weekend, taking two games before Sunday's loss. The Birds also took two of three from Tampa Bay in their prior series.

That had to get the attention of the Red Sox, who subsequently dropped three of four to the same Rays to tighten up the American League Wild Card race to an uncomfortable degree. What had been a nine-game lead on Sept. 3 is down to two entering Monday.

If the Red Sox felt that the Rays had the advantage of lower expectations, imagine the O's edge in that department. Jon Lester, for one, definitely sensed more pressure on his team in the key weekend set.

"It's easier when you're coming from behind than where we're at," said Lester, Saturday's losing pitcher. "There's no pressure. We've just got to grind it out. That's the attitude in the clubhouse. We've got to stay working and grind. We can't worry about what's being said about us or what's going on."

In the position in which the Red Sox are, it is hard to rely on history. The truth, however, is that Fenway Park has been the Orioles' nightmare for years: Since 2005, they are 11-41 at The Fens.

Jeremy Guthrie, the AL's biggest loser yet also one of the league's hotter pitchers, goes in the afternoon game against Kyle Weiland.

The nightcap will feature a duel between struggling Baltimore lefty Brian Matusz and Red Sox righty John Lackey.

Guthrie tops the AL with 17 losses, but has won four of his last five starts and has been strong all season against Boston. He has split two decisions against the Red Sox and has an ERA of 1.63 in three appearances.

Weiland will be going on three days' rest, but made only 61 pitches Thursday in being roughed up in the first game of the Rays series.

The nightcap is a tale of two ERAs. Matusz's 9.84 mark is the Majors' highest of anyone who has worked 20-plus innings. And 12-game winner Lackey's 6.19 is 1 1/2 runs higher than that of any of the other 47 pitchers with 12-plus wins.

Remarkably, since Aug. 27, Boston has won only once with fewer than nine runs (the Red Sox are overall 5-14 since then and have scored 18, 14, 12, nine and four in the wins).

It is hard to blame the slide on the recurring absence of Kevin Youkilis, who is coping with a sports hernia, considering the third-base performance of Mike Aviles. The Trade Deadline-acquisition from Kansas City went 2-for-5 with a three-run homer on Sunday, and is batting .583 (7-for-12) since taking over at the hot corner on Sept. 11.

Orioles: Reynolds held out
• Mark Reynolds sat out Sunday's game, the day after he was beaned by the Angels' Ervin Santana two innings after smoking his 34th home run and had to leave the game for tests.

Red Sox: Bedard good to go on Tuesday
• Left-hander Erik Bedard, off his satisfactory bullpen session on Saturday, will go in Tuesday night's game. It will be his first start since Sept. 3, having been out with a strained side muscle.

• Infielder Jed Lowrie (sore left shoulder) remains out of the lineup, but is available to come off the bench to pinch-hit.

Worth noting
Tim Wakefield's five-inning turn on Sunday increased his career workload for the Red Sox to 3,002 innings, the first Boston pitcher to pass the 3,000-inning threshold. It left the Reds as the only one of the Major League's 16 charter teams without a 3,000-inning pitcher. The Reds' career leader is Eppa Rixey (1912-33), with 2,890 2/3 innings. Comments