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Game 9: Orioles (4-4) @ Red Sox (5-3), 7:10

With the Red Sox using Alfredo Aceves as a starter tonight, even Mark almost feels a little confidence - which scares him more than a Cy Young winner would.

Rob Carr

What a difference a day makes. One day you find yourself trapped in an existential quandary that can only be escaped by a trip to Albuquerque, and the next, outer space is the limit, because Chris Davis home runs transcend the sky.

If you are so inclined, you might even approach the game tonight with some degree of confidence, because the Red Sox starting pitcher is Alfredo Aceves. Seen last year putting up a 5.36 ERA as the Boston closer, Aceves is now a starter, though he's appeared in relief in two games so far this year and has a 10.38 ERA. That puts him in Brian Matusz Challenge territory: can he manage to lower his ERA? This possibility exists, because Aceves got a respectable number of strikeouts last year, and Orioles hitters tend not to take walks, which is an Aceves weakness.

You know me well enough to know that I don't do confidence, but Aceves tempts even me to almost feel good about the game - which, of course, makes me fear the improbable perfect game all the more. That's how these things go.

Taking the mound for the Orioles will be Chris Tillman, who is not so confidence-inspiring. His first start was a disaster, wherein he displayed nothing resembling command or control. That performance came against a Twins offense that is not reputed to be robust. The Red Sox are a tougher opponent. Miss the strike zone and they'll let you walk them; get desperate and throw meatballs - or miss your spots and venture into center-cut territory - and they'll beat you up harder than they did to R.A. Dickey when his knuckler wasn't knuckling. Why am I using the second-person so much tonight? I do not have an answer.

Nick Markakis is the DH tonight and Chris Dickerson is playing right field, which seems kind of weird on the surface. They are both lefties and Aceves is a righty, but if you look at Aceves' career platoon splits, they practically don't exist. Plus, if Buck wants lefties in the lineup, why put Dickerson in the field? Maybe to give Markakis a night off from standing out there on a cold night while Tillman gets a 3-1 count on every batter, then walks or strikes out half the hitters he faces. Give him a little break before a New York series where every game will be 3:30 because it's New York.

The ways of Buck are mysterious. A specific choice can be questioned, but they cannot be questioned in the aggregate, not after last year. A win tonight would bring them back up over .500, perhaps to stay there for good. A Tillman disaster leading to another loss and we'll be back on the downward spiral.

It seems the 2013 Orioles will also be a rollercoaster ride. Buckle up.

Nate McLouth - LF Jacoby Ellsbury - CF
Manny Machado -3B Shane Victorino - RF
Nick Markakis - DH Dustin Pedroia - 2B
Adam Jones - CF Mike Napoli - 1B
Chris Davis - 1B Will Middlebrooks - 3B
Matt Wieters - C Daniel Nava - DH
J.J. Hardy - SS Jarrod Saltalamacchia - C
Chris Dickerson - RF Stephen Drew - SS
Alexi Casilla - 2B Jackie Bradley Jr. - LF