As the Red Sox come to Baltimore for the final series of the season this weekend, Boston has plenty to play for.
The Red Sox currently hold a two-game lead over Oakland for best record in the American League — and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs — entering this weekend’s three-game series in Baltimore.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said before Thursday’s game that he’s plotted out all the scenarios and tiebreakers to gauge how important this series will be for Boston.
He still has yet to decide whether right-hander Chris Tillman will start Sunday’s season finale. While the past two nights have included a number of reserve players, expect Showalter to trot out most of his regular starters this weekend.
First baseman Chris Davis, who sat out Thursday’s game with a sore right foot, is day-to-day, Showalter said.
“[We will] see how he feels [Friday] morning,” Showalter said after Thursday’s 3-2 win over Toronto. “He did tell me in the eighth or ninth inning that this sitting stuff, he didn't like it too much.”
The Orioles also have something to play for. First, there’s the pride factor. But they also lead the New York Yankees by one game for third place in the AL East. New York finishes the season with three games against a Houston team with the worst record in baseball.
They also can clinch a season-series win over the Red Sox with one win this weekend. The Orioles lead the series 9-7.
Much has been made of the Orioles’ struggles in one-run games, and Thursday’s win was just their fourth in their past 19 one-run games.
The Orioles are 18-31 in one-run games this season, and while any stat can be manipulated, I think this is one that speaks volumes. Here are the one-run records of the other AL wild-card contenders: Tampa Bay (25-21), Cleveland (30-17), Texas (27-20), Kansas City (31-24) and New York (28-16). Cleveland, Texas and Kansas City all won one-run games on Thursday.
While too little and too late, Baltimore’s one-run win Thursday was just how close games are won in September. Get a solid, deep start — like Miguel Gonzalez’s seven innings of one-run ball — build an early lead and sustain it late. You even saw the Orioles drop some bunts early in the game.
As for Gonzalez, this season has been a grind for him. But the same toughness he showed last season as a rookie was on display throughout 2013, his first full major league season.
For most of the year, Gonzalez battled despite not having his best stuff on and still often gave the Orioles a chance to win. The Orioles went 10-3 in his 13 home starts this season, and Gonzalez was 7-2 at Camden Yards.
Most important, Gonzalez rebounded from a rough second-half stretch to finish the season out strong. In his first 17 starts this season, he was 8-3 with a 3.34 ERA, but in nine starts since July 25, he went 3-5 with a 4.76 ERA.
However, since allowing seven runs over four innings on Aug. 30 at Yankee Stadium, Gonzalez finished the season 3-1 with a 2.30 ERA and four quality starts in his past five outings.
That’s enough to be keep him in the mix for a rotation spot next spring.