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Game 118: Red Sox (57-61) @ Orioles (64-53), 7:05pm

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With the O's facing resurgent long-time nemesis Clay Buchholz, Chris Tillman will probably need to be nearly perfect. Does he have it in him? Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE
With the O's facing resurgent long-time nemesis Clay Buchholz, Chris Tillman will probably need to be nearly perfect. Does he have it in him? Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

The Orioles have been winning a lot of games lately, but unfortunately, so have the Yankees. Today, with the Yankees having already played and lost, represents an opportunity where the O's are guaranteed to pick up a game in the standings with a win. They enter play 5.5 games back and will end it either 5 or 6 games back - a long road either way, but not insurmountable. Only if they keep winning - and victories will help build up some buffer space in the wild card race as well.

Truly, it hasn't fully set in that I can write paragraphs like the above and it's coming from the real world.

Here's the challenge for the O's tonight: Clay Buchholz. The last time he saw the O's in Camden Yards was June 7 and the result was a complete game shutout where the Orioles only got four hits and one walk for the whole game. That sucks - well, for the O's, anyway. On May 6, Buchholz ended the day with a 9.09 ERA. You may remember that day as the Chris Davis in relief game.

Anyway, here's the ERA by month for Buchholz: April - 8.69, May - 5.60, June - 2.40, July - 2.45, August - 0.59. He's gone at least seven innings in nine of his last eleven starts, and it seems something clicked. He is coming off a complete game pitched against Cleveland. So, you know, good luck with that, O's.

Meanwhile, here comes another start for Chris Tillman. This time he will be facing a good offense. We know how that's gone previously - then again, the Red Sox have had a lot of injuries, and continue to have a lot of injuries.

It's interesting in that it's-not-really-interesting kind of way that we're going to see Tillman, a pitcher who in the past had experimented with the cutter and seemed to end up with lost velocity on his fastball, on the same day that a Dan Duquette interview through the Orioles-owned TV network about how he hates the cutter (specifically in reference to Dylan Bundy) was published.

Nobody's going to confuse me for a keen pitching evaluator, but Tillman seems to have dumped the cutter this year and his velocity is up. His fastball is also nearly completely straight, which may be why he started throwing a cutter in the first place - only in Tillman's case the cutter was straight and just slower than a regular fastball. That probably was not a problem for Bundy. But they are different men anyway, and one person's failed cutter shouldn't mean another must be judged the same way.

Whatever the case, it looks like Tillman will need a nearly-flawless outing to power the O's to a sweep and gaining that game in the standings. Does he have it in him? If so, it'll go a long way to quelling our doubts about him. I am not optimistic. Then again, I haven't been optimistic all season and the O's keep winning games. Maybe tonight will be yet another case.


Lineup

BALTIMORE ORIOLES BOSTON RED SOX
Nick Markakis - RF Jacoby Ellsbury - DH
J.J. Hardy - SS Carl Crawford - LF
Nate McLouth - LF Dustin Pedroia - 2B
Adam Jones - CF Adrian Gonzalez - 1B
Matt Wieters - C Cody Ross - RF
Chris Davis - DH Jarrod Saltalamacchia - C
Mark Reynolds - 1B Nick Punto - 3B
Manny Machado - 3B Pedro Ciriaco - SS
Omar Quintanilla - 2B Scott Podsednik - CF