O's game blog: The homestand begins against the Boston Red Sox

The road trip that featured numerous rain delays and two series sweeps - one that the Orioles won and one they did not - is finally over. Today they begin a week-long homestand that will include three games versus the Boston Red Sox and three against the Tampa Bay Rays.

This starts a stretch of 14 straight games within the American League East. The Birds go to Toronto and Tampa Bay for a pair of four-game series after this homestand at Oriole Park.

Today's game is a matchup between the second- and third-place teams in the division. The Orioles (33-18) are two games behind the New York Yankees while Boston (27-26) is nine games out. Tampa Bay (26-28) is 10 1/2 back, with Toronto (23-29) in last place and 12 1/2 games out.

The Orioles went 32-20 last year within the AL East and are 7-2 this year. That combined record of 39-22 represents a winning percentage of .639. Over 162 games that pace would give the team 103 victories.

The Orioles swept Boston three straight at Fenway Park from April 9-11 in their only previous meeting this season, by scores of 7-1, 7-5 and 9-4. They scored 23 runs on 31 hits and had five homers that series, recording a team OPS of .828 at Fenway Park. The pitching staff posted a team ERA of 2.89 in the three games.

The Red Sox lost the first two games of their series at home with Milwaukee over the weekend but won yesterday to improve to one game over the .500 mark. They are 5-2 their last seven games. But they have lost 10 of their last 18. Boston is 4-6 against AL East clubs and is 16-11 in road games.

Lefty Cole Irvin (4-2, 3.15 ERA) gets the start today in the spot that was occupied by lefty John Means until he went to the injured list. Irvin’s last appearance came in relief on Wednesday in St. Louis. Over 3 1/3 innings he gave up six hits and five runs (three earned) while throwing 56 pitches.

When we last saw him as a starter he gave up two runs in 5 2/3 innings on May 10 versus Arizona. Before that, he had pitched three straight scoreless starts over a span of 20 innings.

So, over his past four starts, Irvin is 4-0 with an ERA of 0.70, allowing two runs in 25 2/3 innings. In that stretch he has walked three and fanned 17, allowing a .167 batting average against and a .424 OPS.

Irvin faced Boston in that earlier series, giving up five runs and seven hits over five innings April 10. The five earned runs allowed is a season-worst for him this year. In six career games against Boston, he is 0-1 with a 5.16 ERA.

Right-hander Cooper Criswell (2-1, 2.86 ERA) will start for Boston, making his ninth appearance and eighth as a starting pitcher. He has allowed two earned runs or fewer six times in his seven starts, and three earned runs in the other outing. Boston is 6-1 in those games.

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