It's Feldman vs. Dempster tonight in Boston

Is this a make-or-break series for the Orioles?

Three games in Boston. Get swept and get out of the race?

Probably not, considering that there isn't a single team that seems capable of putting a stranglehold on a wild card spot.

For the Orioles, it starts tonight at Fenway Park with Scott Feldman opposing Ryan Dempster.

The Orioles should feel good about handing the ball to Feldman, who's allowed three earned runs or fewer in each of his last six starts. He's given up only four runs in his last three starts covering 23 2/3 innings, with 14 hits, four walks and 14 strikeouts.

The Orioles should be concerned about handing the ball to Feldman, who's allowed 12 runs (six earned) and 10 hits in four innings over two career appearances at Fenway Park. That's a 13.50 ERA.

In a July 27 start against the Rex Sox at Camden Yards, Feldman was charged with four runs and six hits over five innings. Dempster was credited with the win after allowing two runs and six hits in 5 1/3 innings.

The current Red Sox are batting .376 (32-for-85) versus Feldman. Mike Napoli is 11-for-26 (.423) with two home runs and six RBIs. David Ortiz is 2-for-7 with two home runs and seven RBIs.

Dempster is 2-1 with a 2.01 ERA in five career starts against the Orioles, with nine runs (seven earned), 21 hits, 12 walks and 21 strikeouts in 31 1/3 innings.

The Orioles are batting .201 (29-for-144) against Dempster. J.J. Hardy is 3-for-32 (.094).

The lineup for the opener should be easy to figure out. The only question is the order.

Nate McLouth will start in left field unless his right knee ballooned overnight after being hit by a Kyle Drabek pitch on Sunday. Danny Valencia should remain the designated hitter, since he's batting .472 (25-for-53) with eight doubles, four homers and 13 RBIs in his last 15 games.

Two left-handed hitting candidates, Henry Urrutia and Wilson Betemit, are no longer on the roster of players in Boston. Betemit is no longer in the organization.

It wouldn't matter. The Orioles need to ride Valencia for as long as he's in this groove. No reason to put him back on the bench. No reason to obsess over his splits.

The Red Sox have won 10 of their last 12 games and 17 of 21. Cooling them off will be a monumental task, and it won't happen if the Orioles fail to take advantage of their scoring opportunities. They were 7-for-30 with RISP in Toronto over the weekend and are 37-for-171 (.216) in their last 22 games.


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