Opposite dugout: Red Sox still scuffling on offense entering big series vs. Birds

red-sox-square.jpgManager: John Farrell, second year
Record: 38-47
Last 10 games: 4-6
Who to watch: DH David Ortiz (.252/.351/.483, 19 HR, 53 RBIs); 1B Mike Napoli (.277/.397/.460, 10 HR, 32 RBIs); LHP Jon Lester (9-7, 2.92 ERA, 1.18 WHIP); RHP John Lackey (9-5, 3.62 ERA, 1.21 WHIP)
Season series vs. O’s: 5-5, 32 runs scored, 39 runs allowed

Pitching probables
July 5 (Game 1): Jon Lester vs. Miguel Gonzalez, 1 p.m., MASN2 HD
July 5 (Game 2): John Lackey vs. Ubaldo Jimenez, 7 p.m., FOX
July 6: Jake Peavy vs. Kevin Gausman, 1:30 p.m., MASN HD

Series breakdown
After weather delayed things by a day, the Red Sox and Orioles continue a tightly contested season series at Fenway Park today with a day-night doubleheader.

Fourth-place Boston, the defending World Series champs, and first-place Baltimore have split the 10 games the teams have played so far with the Orioles winning four of the first six and the Red Sox taking three of the last four.

Overall, Boston comes in cold after being swept by the Cubs at home, making the prior series win at Yankee Stadium seem like an anomaly. The Red Sox have lost three of their last four series to fall eight games out of first place.

Boston sends out a mixed set of starters for the three games. One has been at his best (left-hander Jon Lester), one has been struggling (right-hander John Lackey) and one has been inconsistent (right-hander Jake Peavy).

Lester is 3-0 with a 1.21 ERA (four earned runs in 29 2/3 innings) over his last four starts. That has improved his season totals to nine wins and a 2.92 ERA. He’ll face Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez in the first game of today’s doubleheader.

Lackey heads into the nightcap having allowed 11 earned runs in 8 2/3 innings (11.42 ERA) in two starts since pitching nine scoreless frames in a 10-inning win over the Twins on June 18. He’ll go up against O’s righty Ubaldo Jimenez.

Peavy has three quality starts in his last four outings, but he sandwiched those around a rough one in Seattle where he permitted seven runs in five frames. He draws up-and-coming right-hander Kevin Gausman in Sunday’s finale.

Pitching-wise, the Red Sox have been good, ranking fourth in the American League with a 3.87 team ERA.

But the offense has continued to be surprisingly abysmal. Despite a strong season from designated hitter David Ortiz (19 homers, 53 RBIs), Boston ranks last in the AL with 321 runs, 14th with a .243 average and 12th with 63 homers.

Not a typical season with the bats for the defending champs. But they do still have weapons galore that could break out at any time. It just quite hasn’t happened yet.

They have shown signs of life by twice scoring at least eight runs in the last four games. But Boston has also scored two runs or less four times and been blanked twice in the last six contests.

Offensive struggles aside, anytime these two clubs get together in recent seasons, it’s quality theater, and that shouldn’t change this weekend at Fenway Park.

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