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Game 45: Red Sox (21-22) @ Orioles (28-16), 12:35pm

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Can Jake Arrieta fire off a quality start this afternoon to help the Orioles continue their winning ways against the Red Sox? Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE
Can Jake Arrieta fire off a quality start this afternoon to help the Orioles continue their winning ways against the Red Sox? Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

For the third game in a row, the following is true: the first-place Baltimore Orioles are taking on the last-place Boston Red Sox. I will never get tired of typing that sentence.

This afternoon contest represents the rubber match of the three game series. Perhaps in the Boston sports media they are crafting stories about how the Red Sox "need" to secure this series win against the "lowly" Orioles to get their season back on track. They are working with the old paradigm. These Orioles will not be resting on their laurels with salvaging a single win against Boston with a day off tomorrow. They want to continue their dominance with another win today, and what the heck, who says they can't?

Things have even reached the point where Jen Royle said something nice - sure, a bit of a backhanded compliment, but a compliment all the same.

In today's game, the Orioles will be up against an old nemesis, Daniel Bard, who's trying out in a new role. A great relief pitcher who has the potential to be a good starter has more value to the team as a starter - he will ultimately affect more of the season by pitching more innings for the team. The Bard-Papelbon combo at the back end of the Red Sox bullpen was - game 162 notwithstanding - about as nasty as anything the Orioles would see. With this in mind, the Sox are trying out Bard as a starter this year. Not every experiment works out right away. Where as a reliever he'd strike out over a batter per inning, Bard the starter only has a K/9 of 5.48, and his walk rate is a Gregg-esque 5.27. He has only two quality starts out of the seven he has made on the season. If Bard is wild, will the Orioles keep the bats on their shoulders and not bail him out?

The Orioles will also be sending out a starter who has been wild in his career - Jake Arrieta. Jake has actually not been too wild in 2012, though, with a 2.11 BB/9 that's less than half his previous career low. That's helped to keep his WHIP at a respectable, if not eye-popping, 1.21. Jake's allowed 8 home runs in his 55.1 innings, and the Boston lineup - even one full of patchwork fill-ins - can crush some homers.

One of the stats of the day that the beat writers have been posting on Twitter is that the Orioles are 21-1 this year in games where they got a quality start out of the starting pitcher, which makes them 7-15 when they don't. That may well be the key stat for the whole rest of the season. If the starters can keep giving the team a chance to win, the team will keep seizing most of the chances. It's on Jake's shoulders today. Go O's!


Lineup

BALTIMORE ORIOLES BOSTON RED SOX
Xavier Avery - LF Mike Aviles - SS
Robert Andino - SS Dustin Pedroia - 2B
Nick Markakis - RF David Ortiz - DH
Adam Jones - CF Adrian Gonzalez - RF
Chris Davis - 1B Kevin Youkilis - 1B
Wilson Betemit - 3B Will Middlebrooks - 3B
Nick Johnson - DH Daniel Nava - LF
Ryan Flaherty - 2B Scott Podsednik - CF
Luis Exposito - C Kelly Shoppach - C

That lineup... woof. Then again, at least the Orioles aren't the ones with Podsednik playing center field.