Red Sox look to remain on roll against Orioles

MLB

Bolstered by a pair of key returns, the Boston Red Sox look to build upon their narrow American League wild-card lead when they host the Baltimore Orioles in the second contest of a three-game series Saturday afternoon.

The Red Sox won the opener 7-1 behind the return of ace left-hander Chris Sale from the COVID-19 injured list. Reliever Matt Barnes also pitched in his first game back from a bout with the virus, as Boston (84-65) seized sole possession of the top wild-card spot courtesy of a Toronto Blue Jays loss.

Still, the Red Sox are ahead of the New York Yankees by only a half-game, while the Blue Jays are just one back. Boston and New York will face off in a pivotal three-game series next weekend.

Until then, the Red Sox will look to take advantage of an Orioles club that reached 100 losses (47-100) for the third time in the last four seasons with Friday’s defeat.

Right-hander Nick Pivetta (9-7, 4.55 ERA) gets the nod for Boston in the first of back-to-back matinees. Lefty Zac Lowther (0-2, 9.92) is slated to pitch for Baltimore.

While Sale overcame a drop in velocity to pitch an efficient five innings and earn the win in his return, Barnes’ first outing since Aug. 29 was a little spottier. He walked the first man he faced in the eighth and gave up a one-out single before a pop up and strikeout got him out of the jam.

Barnes, who needed 28 pitches in that inning, represents an X-factor for the Red Sox. Getting the right-hander back to his pre-All-Star break form (2.61 ERA) would be a much-needed improvement from his 7.11 ERA in 17 games since.

“To go out there and compete, that’s good,” said manager Alex Cora of Barnes’ performance Friday. “It’s a good first step.”

A player with little room for improvement of late is Bobby Dalbec, who blasted his 12th home run in his last 28 games in the win. The rookie is slashing .285/.364/.646 in 50 games since the All-Star break.

For the Orioles, Austin Hays was the lone bright spot Friday with a solo home run in the second inning. He’s gone deep seven times in 15 games this month.

“He’s had a great month,” manager Brandon Hyde remarked. “Really happy with the progress he’s making, and he’s getting a chance to play every day.”

Pivetta took a no-decision in his last start, allowing one run over 5 1/3 innings against the Chicago White Sox. His last victory came Aug. 13 over Baltimore, when he gave up one run and struck out eight over six innings.

Pivetta is 6-0 with a 2.95 ERA in six career starts against the Orioles.

The rookie Lowther will face the Red Sox for the second time after he was tagged for seven runs in just 2 1/3 innings on May 8. He surrendered seven runs in two innings last time out versus the Blue Jays.

–Field Level Media

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