The Orioles are 6-8 over their last 14 games and are on the outside looking in at the American League playoff race. But their next six games come against the Red Sox and Yankees, beginning with a three-game series in Boston that starts Tuesday, providing an opportunity to shuffle the AL East standings.
The irony, of course, is that the Red Sox have a chance to bury the O's deeper down the standings and perhaps out of the playoff race. It's the same treatment Baltimore handed Boston to finish the 2011 season, putting a lid on the Red Sox's playoff hopes.
Since then, the Orioles have tormented their division foes, winning 24 of 35 matchups.
Success against Boston might be tougher now, as the Red Sox's pitching staff has morphed into its April form. The Sox haven't allowed more than three runs in a game since the Yankees erupted for nine runs Aug. 18.
The Orioles, who trail the A's by two games in the race for the second AL Wild Card spot, will have to beat a Red Sox team that's pitching well.
"I've said many times, the baseball gods, if you keep grinding, they'll shine on you, and our guys have. They've never given in," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said after a dramatic win against the A's on Friday. "When these guys' backs are to the wall, I have a lot of faith in what they'll bring."
Felix Doubront, who starts Tuesday's game for Boston, is coming off a dominating performance against the Dodgers. The lefty threw eight innings of one-run ball. At 25, Doubront has appeared to hit his stride as a permanent part of the Red Sox rotation. He's 9-6 with a 3.79 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 140 innings.
In his only start against the Orioles this season, Doubront was knocked out in the fifth inning after allowing three earned runs on seven hits.
The Orioles have a talented lefty they'll send to counter Doubront. Wei-Yin Chen has given Baltimore's rotation depth since his return on July 10. He's pitched at least six innings in each of his eight starts since then.
Orioles: Hammel on the mend
The O's rotation could get a little deeper with the return of Jason Hammel, who is scheduled to begin a Minor League rehab assignment Thursday at Double-A Bowie.
Hammel's been on the disabled list since July 29 with a right flexor mass strain.
Red Sox: Buchholz throws rehab
The Red Sox are ranked in the bottom third of the Major Leagues in ERA since June 9, when Clay Buchholz landed on the disabled list with neck and shoulder issues that have kept him out of action since.
Buchholz began a rehab assignment on Sunday with Class A Lowell, the first test as he attempts to work his way back to the Red Sox in time to join the pennant race. He only lasted two-thirds of an inning, but he reported that he felt good afterward.
"I felt good. That was my only concern coming down here to pitch," said Buchholz, who has been sidelined for the last two and a half months with a right bursa sac strain in his shoulder. "Physically, I felt fine today and that's what I wanted."
Buchholz allowed three runs (one earned) on one hit and three walks. He threw 38 pitches. Following his outing, he said he would prefer to make at least one more rehab start.
"I can definitely use another one. I feel like I hadn't pitched in two and a half months," Buchholz said. "It's an art. If you don't do it for an extended period of time, you feel awkward doing it. Facing batters in a game situation is completely different than facing the guys on my team in my [simulated-game] situations. I think one more could do it if I can get up and down enough times."
• The Orioles are 11-6 when Brian Roberts scores a run.
• Boston's Will Middlebrooks is hitting .356 with five extra-base hits in 14 games since being recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket.