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Game 132: Orioles (70-61) @ Red Sox (79-55), 7:10

The Orioles try to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Red Sox on Thursday night. Chris Tillman tries for his 15th win for the 15th time, with old Orioles foe Jon Lester starting for Boston.

Greg Fiume

For once, a team playing one of the teams ahead of the Orioles in the standings has decided not to be completely and totally useless. The Tigers scored four runs in the ninth inning to stave off a sweep at the hands of the Athletics. It is an easy formula: win a game, gain ground. Lose the game, stay at the same sad 4.5 games back position where they have sunk in recent days.

It is up to the Orioles to not be completely and totally useless. Regrettably, they have not been able to do this up until now in their series against the Red Sox. One blowout, one agonizing close loss. You know the numbers. They have lost eight straight one-run games this month. It is not 2012 any more. The magic that powered that team is lost. It's almost like relying on a bullpen to be legendarily good for two straight seasons is a bad idea - though the Atlanta Braves have pulled off this trick, but they play in the National League, so it doesn't even count.

The pitcher who resembles a staff ace, Chris Tillman, takes the mound against division-leading Boston tonight. In three games against the Red Sox this year, he's pitched 18.1 innings and allowed only two earned runs. In the last two starts, he went six and seven innings while allowing no runs. This either means he owns the Red Sox or he's due to give up like eighty home runs to them tonight, because they haven't hit one against him yet this year, and Tillman gives up the homers. Boy, does he.

Old nemesis Jon Lester pitches for the Red Sox. The whole thing about the Orioles never beating him is over with, but they still stunk in their last time facing him, getting only six baserunners in seven innings.

They need to go ahead and not stink tonight. They've needed to not stink for the last two months, and they've responded to that need by being sub-par. They haven't been complete and total tailspin of recent Orioles past awful. They were one game below .500 in July and they're thus far one game under .500 for August. It's not terrible, but that's not the way into the playoffs.

The season is not over yet, and hope is not entirely lost, but time is running out. Too many frustrating losses have brought them here. They only need to make up a game for every ten games remaining. That doesn't sound like so much, and yet...

Nate McLouth (L) - LF Jacoby Ellsbury (L) - CF
Manny Machado (R) - 3B Shane Victorino (S) - RF
Adam Jones (R) - CF Dustin Pedroia (R) - 2B
Chris Davis (L) - 1B David Ortiz (L) - DH
Matt Wieters (S) - C Daniel Nava (S) - LF
J.J. Hardy (R) - SS Mike Carp (L) - 1B
Nick Markakis (L) - RF Jarrod Saltalamacchia (S) - C
Danny Valencia (R) - DH Stephen Drew (L) - SS
Brian Roberts (S) - 2B Will Middlebrooks (R) - 3B