Orioles facing the Boston strugglers (updated)

The Orioles are expected to announce their minor league Player and Pitcher of the Year later today. As I’ve written already, it would come as a big surprise if Jonathan Schoop and Bobby Bundy are denied the honors.

I’ve been wrong before, so don’t place any wagers based on that statement. However, those are my picks, and I know the Orioles were leaning heavily in that direction a few weeks ago.

The Red Sox are in town for the final homestand of the season. These games are hugely important to them as they try to stay ahead of the Rays in the wild card race.

Not everyone is keen on the Orioles playing the role of spoilers, but I’ll say it again: Their record and schedule dictate that they’re spoilers. They didn’t hold a team meeting and vote on it.

It isn’t their sole purpose for getting out of bed this week, but if they can ruin the Red Sox’s season - especially after the bench-clearing incident at Fenway Park earlier this summer - they should go for it with gusto.

What else are they supposed to do? Roll over on their backs? Pretend that it’s just another series and accidentally refer to their opponent as “the Royals?”

Manager Buck Showalter will break out his standard lineup tonight against right-hander Josh Beckett. You won’t find Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, J.J. Hardy, Mark Reynolds and Matt Wieters on the bench.

Tommy Hunter gets another chance to make an impression on Showalter. He faced the Red Sox in his last start and allowed four runs and nine hits in 6 2/3 innings, with one walk and four strikeouts in the Orioles’ 6-4 victory. He’s 2-1 with a 7.50 ERA in five career starts against Boston, with 20 runs and 31 hits - including seven homers - in 24 innings.

Hunter tweaked his groin Wednesday and was questionable to make another start, but he didn’t report any discomfort in his last bullpen session and was cleared to pitch tonight.

Carl Crawford is 7-for-14 with a double and two triples against Hunter. David Ortiz is 4-for-13 with two homers and five RBIs. Marco Scutaro is 1-for-14.

The Red Sox were pushed to 14 innings last night in New York, where they won 7-4 in Game 2 of a doubleheader. They’re 6-18 in September and have lost seven of their last nine, reducing their wild card lead over Tampa Bay to one game..

Closer Jonathan Papelbon tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings in the second game, so he won’t be available tonight.

Beckett allowed six runs and seven hits in 7 1/3 innings against the Orioles in Wednesday’s 6-4 loss.

Reynolds is 2-for-8 against Beckett this season, and both hits are home runs.

Vladimir Guerrero remains one hit away from becoming the all-time leader among Dominican-born players. He’s tied with Julio Franco at 2,586.

Update: Schoop was named the Orioles’ minor league Player of the Year, but they leaned in another direction for the pitching award and gave it to right-hander Tim Bascom, a fourth-round pick in 2007 who went a combined 10-4 with a 2.97 ERA at Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie.

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