Winners of eight of their last 10, the Red Sox finally had the look of a cohesive bunch heading into last night's game against Baltimore.
They also have a wonderful opportunity ahead in the form of six straight games (entering last night) against the top two teams in the American League East, all sandwiched around the first day off in three weeks. The division is so bunched that a strong showing this week could have Boston closing in on the top spot, as crazy as that sounds considering the first few weeks of the season.
Here is what you need to know about the three-game series at first-place Baltimore and the set at home against second-place Tampa Bay:
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At Orioles, Monday-Wednesday
The Sox used to feel more at home at Camden Yards than the Orioles did. They regularly whipped the hapless O's in front of a legion of red-clad fans who bought cheap tickets on Southwest in order to invade what many called "Fenway South." To the outsider, it was nauseating. To the Sox, it was a big reason why they were able to have so much success last decade.
My, how times have changed.
After going 67-28 in Baltimore from 1999 to 2009, Boston is just 8-10 there in its last two seasons. The bookends to that stretch are notable. There was the three-game Baltimore sweep in Camden Yards in early May 2010, two of the wins coming in the 10th inning and each of them painful enough to elicit an angry visit from general manager Theo Epstein, who was reportedly quite peeved with his 11-14 club.
Then there was the final three games of the 2011 season, also at Camden Yards, where the Sox split the first two before dropping a heartbre ... ah, you know the rest.
*All statistics through Sunday's games
SS Mike Aviles: 10-for-25 (.400) with three homers, four doubles and six RBI during a six-game hitting streak.
RF Nick Markakis: 17-for-54 (.315) with five homers, four doubles and 12 RBI in last 13 games.
2B Dustin Pedroia: 6-for-29 (.207) with zero extra-base hits, zero RBI and six strikeouts in last seven games.
C Matt Wieters: 0-for-16 with four strikeouts and zero walks in last three games.
Stat you need to know: These teams are a combined 26-16 on the road, but just 21-20 at home.
Clay Buchholz (4-2, 7.77 ERA) vs. Tommy Hunter (2-2, 4.78), last night
Felix Doubront (4-1, 4.09) vs. Brian Matusz (3-4, 5.36), Tuesday
Daniel Bard (3-5, 4.85) vs. Jake Arrieta (2-4, 4.72), Wednesday
Vs. Tampa Bay, Friday-Sunday
Although the Rays were the ones who got to the Sox last year, they've helped to keep Boston afloat early on. The Red Sox have taken four of the first six meetings between the teams, limiting Tampa Bay to a total of 17 runs in the six games.
CF B.J. Upton: 7-for-14 (.500) with four stolen bases in last four games.
1B Carlos Pena: 0-for-13 with five strikeouts in last four games.
Stat you need to know: Rays pitchers own a 6.53 ERA against the Red Sox this year. Their ERA against all other opponents is 3.16.
Adam Cobb (1-0, 2.57) vs. Jon Lester (3-3, 3.95), Friday
David Price (6-3, 2.88) vs. Josh Beckett (4-4, 4.38), Saturday
Jeremy Hellickson (4-0, 2.77 entering Monday's start against Toronto) vs. Buchholz