TONIGHT: Rangers, now Red Sox find Birds can play spoilers' role very well


BOSTON -- As far as the Orioles are concerned, the Red Sox have become the Texas Rangers of the American League's Eastern Division.

Just as they helped dismantle the Rangers' bid to win the AL West title by winning nine of 12 games between the teams, the Orioles have kept the Red Sox from making a stronger run at the Blue Jays in the AL East.

Going into tonight's game (7:35, Ch. 2), the Orioles are one win away from a couple of milestones against the Red Sox. With a 6-2 record, they need another victory to secure their first winning season against Boston since their world championship year of 1983.

In addition, if they can win one of the two remaining games in this series, the Orioles will surpass their number of wins in Fenway Park in the last four years, when they had a combined 4-21 record. The Orioles have won four of five meetings here this year and two out of three in Baltimore, where they will play the Red Sox three more times next week.

By contrast, the Orioles finished with a 5-and-8 record against Toronto, which has a 3 1/2 -game lead over the Red Sox in the AL East race.

Overall, the Orioles will be going for their seventh win in their last nine games when they meet the Red Sox tonight. Jose Mesa (5-10, 5.96) will be making his third start since coming off the disabled list and is trying to break a personal two-game losing streak.

If he falters, the Orioles still may be all right. Their bullpen, which got a rest last night, has allowed only one run in its last 28 innings.

Rookie Kevin Morton (5-3, 4.69), one of three lefthanders currently in Boston's starting rotation, will pitch for the Red Sox, who lost last night for only the third time in their last 13 games.

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