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Monday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Jon Lester vs. Chris Tillman 03.31.14 at 6:41 am ET
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For the fourth consecutive year, Jon Lester will get the nod for Opening Day as he faces off against the Orioles and Chris Tillman in Baltimore.

Lester comes into the 2014 season after posting a 15-8 record with a 3.75 ERA and a WHIP of 1.29 during the Red Sox World Series run last year. The 30-year-old lefty finished off the year with five appearances during the postseason when he gave up a mere six runs in 34 2/3 innings.

“He’€™s become a very good pitcher at a young age,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “And the early trajectory of his career, for a guy that’€™s made that number of starts for a franchise as storied as this, without having gotten to free agency yet, all those things combine. It speaks volumes for a talented guy at a very early age.”

Despite dealing with contract talks over the past few months, Lester had one of the better spring trainings of his career as he posted a 0.71 ERA with a 0.79 WHIP in three starts. The team and Lester announced on Saturday that while talks of a contract extension were going amicably, they would table the discussion for the time being. Lester is heading into the $13 million option year on what was originally a five-year, $30 million deal that he agreed to after the 2008 season.

Lester last faced the Orioles on Sept. 28, 2013, in a game the Red Sox ultimately lost 6-5. The southpaw gave up four earned runs on nine hits over five innings of action and received a no-decision in the start. Overall, Lester has a 15-3 record against the Orioles with a 2.94 ERA over the course of 25 starts.

In contrast to Lester, Tillman is making just his first Opening Day start after having one of the best seasons of his career in 2013. The 25-year-old righty pitched to a 16-7 record with a 3.71 ERA and a WHIP of 1.22 in 33 starts. Before turning in an All-Star and ace-worthy performance in 2013, Tillman had just 16 wins over the previous four years combined.

Tillman, who is in his sixth season with Baltimore, made five starts during the spring and accumulated a 4.67 ERA with a 1.50 WHIP. He missed one appearance because of a bout with the flu.

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Sunday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: John Lackey vs. Chris Tillman 09.29.13 at 11:11 am ET
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John Lackey will attempt to cap off the season with a win against the Orioles and Chris Tillman on Sunday in the regular-season finale at Camden Yards.

The Red Sox already have secured the No. 1 seed in the AL and home-field advantage, so Sunday’€™s matchup has no postseason relevance.

Lackey (10-13, 3.52 ERA), largely viewed as a poor investment after signing a five-year, $82.5 million contract and posting a 5.26 ERA in his first 61 starts before sitting out the entire 2012 season following Tommy John surgery, makes his final start in a surprisingly successful season.

His 3.52 ERA is the best figure since 2007 during his apex with the Angels. Lackey’€™s 1.157 WHIP represents a career low, and his 1.9 BB/9 ratio ranks fourth in the AL.

Lackey looks for a positive finale to an erratic month of September on Sunday. He dazzled in a Sept. 19 start vs. Baltimore (nine innings, one run) and turned in a solid outing (7 1/3 innings, three runs) against the Tigers at Fenway Park on Sept. 2. But he struggled against the Yankees on Sept. 7, allowing a season-high seven runs in 5 2/3 innings.

Lackey took a loss in his last outing at Coors Field on Tuesday. He allowed four runs, inluding three home runs, in six innings.

“Not our best night from the mound,” said manager John Farrell, after the start. “I thought John made a couple of mistakes that he had to pay for, particularly in a ball park where you put the ball in the air and it’s going to carry.”

In four starts against the Orioles this season, Lackey possesses a 3.34 ERA and a 1.011 WHIP in 29 2/3 innings. He threw a two-hit, one-run, eight-strikeout complete game in his most recent bout with Baltimore.

Tillman (16-7, 3.62 ERA) began his career with the Orioles inauspiciously — evidenced by a 5.58 ERA in his first three seasons and 36 starts — but he finally flashed the potential that made him a part of the massive Erik Bedard trade that sent outfielder Adam Jones, Tillman and three other prospects from the Mariners organization to Baltimore.

Tillman posted a 2.93 ERA in 86 innings last season. This season, Tillman proved that 2012 was not an anomaly. He surpassed 200 innings for the first time in his five-year career, and amassed a 16-7 record and a 3.62 ERA, along with a 1.207 WHIP.

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Thursday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: John Lackey vs. Chris Tillman 09.19.13 at 11:29 am ET
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The Red Sox and Orioles will face off for the final time at Fenway Park during the regular season on Thursday night, as John Lackey will take the mound for Boston. Opposing Lackey will be Chris Tillman, who will be looking for his fourth win against Boston this season.

It’s been a odd last few weeks for Lackey. While he has struggled over his last two starts (11 earned runs in 12 innings of work), Lackey has compiled a 1-0 record over that stretch, thanks in large part to 21 runs of support during those two starts.

This sudden surge of offense has been odd to see in a Lackey start, as the team only scored 18 runs in Lackey’s previous eight games.

Lackey was once again solid in his last start on Sept. 13 against the Yankees, as the right-hander held the New York lineup to four earned over 6 1/3 innings.

Lackey put together a great performance in his last start against Baltimore, holding the O’s to just three runs in 7 1/3 innings in what ended up being a 4-3 Red Sox win.

Tillman (16-6, 3.70 ERA) has excelled against the Red Sox this season, as he is 3-0 with a 1.42 ERA in four starts. The right-hander has enjoyed his best season of his young career in 2013, as he is third in the AL in wins and win percentage (.727).

In his last start, Tillman took the loss against the Blue Jays on Saturday, despite going eight innings and only allowing four earned runs. In terms of Tillman’s last start against Boston on Aug. 29, it was another dominant performance for the 25-year-old, as he only surrendered two runs over seven innings in what ended up being a 3-2 Baltimore victory.

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Thursday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Jon Lester vs. Chris Tillman 08.29.13 at 10:00 am ET
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After struggling in June with an unsightly 7.62 ERA in five starts, Jon Lester appears to finally have reverted back into his role as ace of the Red Sox rotation with a 2.70 ERA in August.

Lester looks to continue his stretch of strong starts on Thursday, as the lefty and the Sox will face off against right-hander Chris Tillman and the Orioles in the finale of a three-game series at Fenway Park.

Lester had one of the strongest starts of any pitcher in the American League this season, as he went undefeated in six April starts with a 4-0 record and a 3.11 ERA.

Along with Clay Buchholz (1.19 April ERA), Lester was one of the chief reasons why the Sox led all MLB clubs with a 19-8 record that month.

However, it seemed like Lester hit a wall in June, as the lefty surrendered 38 hits in 28 1/3 June innings and gave up eight home runs, two more than he had allowed in April and May combined.

The Red Sox gave the beleaguered pitcher nine days of rest from July 14-22 by shuffling their rotation after the All-Star break. It appears that extra rest has paid off in a major way for Lester, who has a 4-1 record with a 2.31 ERA in his seven starts since the All-Star break. He has only given up one home run in his last 33 1/3 innings.

In his latest start on Saturday, his first career appearance against the Dodgers, Lester held one of the hottest teams in baseball in check for 7 1/3 innings and only allowed three hits. Koji Uehara retired the last four LA batters to secure the 4-2 victory for the Sox and give Lester his 12th win of the season.

“I know what I’m capable of. It’s just a matter of going out there and doing it,” Lester said after the game. “Since the break, I’ve felt good physically, and I feel like I’m in a good place throwing the ball right now.”

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Red Sox lineup: Usual suspects for Sox as Daniel Nava returns to left field 07.26.13 at 3:12 pm ET
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After being rained out on Thursday night, the Red Sox will begin a three-game set against the third-place Baltimore Orioles in an increasingly crowded AL East.

Daniel Nava returns to the lineup on Friday night. Manager John Farrell had cited matchups as the reason for Nava’s lack of play recently, with Jonny Gomes starting in five out of the last six games.

John Lackey (7-7, 2.95) will start Friday due to the rain out on Thursday. Lackey has pitched one game against the O’s this season, where he earned the win after dealing seven innings, giving up just two runs on seven hits.

Chris Tillman (12-3, 3.84) will face-off against Lackey. Tillman has been extremely efficient in his last 10 outings, posting a 3.98 ERA with an 8-1 record. Tillman will make his second start Friday night since being selected to the All-Star team for the first time in his career.

For complete Red Sox coverage, click here.

And for complete matchup coverage for Friday’s game, click here.

RED SOX LINEUP

Jacoby Ellsbury CF

Shane Victorino RF

Dustin Pedroia 2B

David Ortiz DH

Mike Napoli 1B

Daniel Nava LF

Jarrod Saltalamacchia C

Stephen Drew SS

Jose Iglesias 3B

John Lackey P

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Friday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: John Lackey vs. Chris Tillman at 12:25 pm ET
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For the second day in a row Friday, John Lackey will wake up, get out of bed and prepare to pitch.

He had been slated to start against the Rays Thursday night, but after rain ruined those plans, forcing the teams to play Monday instead, the Red Sox pushed Lackey back to the series opener at Camden Yards. The 6-foot-6 righty will take on fellow right-hander Chris Tillman and the Orioles.

As noted in Wednesday’€™s pitching preview, Lackey is fresh off of an outing against the Yankees Saturday that was his worst in the last month ‘€” relative to his own recent success, at least. He was hit up for four runs and 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings, but to his credit, he did fan seven Yankees batters while issuing zero free passes.

‘€œI feel pretty strong right now,’€ Lackey said after the game, a 5-2 Red Sox loss. ‘€œThe last month or two have been pretty solid. I’€™m just going to try to keep working hard at it and trying to give us a good chance to win when you go out there.’€

It was the first time in seven starts he failed to pitch seven complete innings. The start of that streak happened to come against his opponent Friday ‘€” the Orioles. On June 15, he tossed seven innings of two-run ball, allowing seven hits and one walk while striking out four. The Red Sox won, 5-4.

It is part of a larger stretch in which he has been the team’€™s best starter, particularly in Clay Buchholz‘€™s absence. He owns a 2.95 ERA and 1.16 WHIP to go with his 4.35 K/BB rate on the season.

Tillman (12-3, 3.84 ERA), meanwhile, will be looking to build on two strong outings of his own against the Sox earlier this year. In a pair of Baltimore wins, he went a combined 11 1/3 innings, giving up two runs on nine hits and six walks. He also struck out eight.

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Friday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Ryan Dempster vs. Chris Tillman 06.14.13 at 9:28 am ET
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When the Red Sox take to the field against Chris Tillman and the Orioles at Camden Yards on Friday night, Ryan Dempster will get the ball in search of his third straight win. The right-hander has notched a victory in each of his last two outings, a seven-inning effort vs. the Rangers and then six frames against the Angels.

On the season, Dempster is 4-6 with a 4.40 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, and he has seen an uptick in effectiveness of late. He has pitched three consecutive quality starts, with his May 28 game vs. the Phillies (seven innings, two runs) preceding the Rangers and Angels contests.

He acknowledged his high home run rate (14 long balls in 13 games) earlier this week, but said as long as they are of the solo variety it doesn’€™t bother him too much. Those things happen when he pitches to contact, which he often does with a strong offense behind him.

His last time out, Dempster gave up three runs on two walks and six hits, including two homers, against the Angels. He also fanned six to reach the 2,000-strikeout plateau for his career.

‘€œThe biggest thing is the longevity to be around long enough to get to something like that,’€ Dempster said after the game. ‘€œI’€™m sure when I’€™m done playing I’€™ll look back and maybe enjoy it a little more, but it is cool. I never play the game for stats, I play to win, but when you look back, that’€™s a lot of strikeouts.”

Tillman (6-2, 3.89 ERA) owns a 3.18 ERA in his last 10 starts dating back to April 22. More recently, the righty rebounded well after a stinker against the Nationals (six earned in 4 2/3) by yielding a combined three earned runs in 13 innings his last two contests.

He has thrown well against the Red Sox in his career, recording a 2.97 ERA in 30 1/3 innings. The Sox most recently plated two runs in Tillman’€™s 5 1/3 innings of work on April 11.

Few Red Sox have a significant number of at-bats against him. Dustin Pedroia, however, has .841 OPS in 17 at-bats.

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Thursday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Alfredo Aceves vs. Chris Tillman 04.11.13 at 9:31 am ET
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Alfredo Aceves will make his first start of 2013 on Thursday night, as he takes the place of injured starter John Lackey in the rotation. Aceves counterpart will be Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman. Felix Doubront has been pushed back to start in Friday’s series-opener vs. the Rays. 

This will be Aceves’ first start since June 21, 2011, when he went five innings and allowed four runs on four hits and six walks with four strikeouts in a no-decision against the Padres. In two relief appearances this year, Aceves has a 0-0 record with a 10.38 ERA. He has allowed five hits and five runs in 4 1/3 innings. He has allowed a home run in each of his first two outings.

Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington noted that it has been the plan all along for Aceves to join the rotation if needed, and after Lackey’s biceps injury in Saturday’s loss to the Blue Jays, Aceves will have that opportunity.

“It just made sense for us to stick with that,” Cherington said. “We’ll see what he does. He’s certainly capable of being a good starting pitcher. He has the pitches in the mix. He’s excited for opportunity. We’ll see how it goes.”

For the O’s, Tillman will be looking to rebound from a tough outing on Saturday against the Twins. He pitched just 3 2/3 innings, allowing five runs on seven hits and four walks with four strikeouts, and was fortunate to come away with a no-decision. In his 15 totals starts in 2012, Tillman only allowed five or more earned runs once.

“I felt good throughout the whole game,” Tillman said. “Physically, I felt really good. Mechanically, I felt like I was fine. All game long, I was kind of yanking, yanking my fastball and my changeup. Made some good pitches with my changeup, but I threw it to the wrong part of the plate.”

The Sox might be a good opponent for Tillman to get back on track. He is 1-1 with a 2.88 ERA in 25 career innings against Boston.

Current Red Sox hitters are hitting a combined .222 with only two extra-base hits in their careers vs. Tillman. For the Orioles, Adam Jones has had the most success against Aceves, hitting .333 with a home run and two doubles.

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Friday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Aaron Cook vs. Chris Tillman 09.28.12 at 11:10 am ET
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The Red Sox hit the road for their final six games of the season with a chance to play spoiler against the AL East’s top two teams. They begin a three-game series with the surprising Orioles at Camden Yards on Friday night before heading to New York to finish out the season with three games against the division-leading Yankees. Aaron Cook (4-10, 5.13 ERA) is on the mound Friday and looks to help the Sox avoid a seventh loss in eight games.

Cook pitched last Saturday against the Orioles and allowed five runs on nine hits over 5 1/3 innings. The Sox lost that game in 12 innings, 9-6. Cook hasn’€™t fared well against the Orioles this season at 0-2 with an 8.78 ERA in three starts.

Orioles catcher Matt Wieters has five hits in eight appearances against Cook lifetime, including four doubles. Mark Reynolds, who has faced Cook the most among active Orioles, has two home runs lifetime.

Chris Tillman (8-2, 3.08) takes the hill for the Orioles. He has been strong in recent outings with a 1.64 ERA over his past four starts. He started against the Sox this past Sunday, allowing one run and six hits over six innings. The Orioles won that game 2-1, although Tillman did not factor in the decision.

Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is 4-for-10 lifetime against Tillman. He’s the only active Sox player with double-figure at-bats vs. Tillman.

The Orioles, a game behind the Yankees and in first in the race for the wild card, lead the season series against Boston 10-5 and are 20 games ahead of the Sox.

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Sunday’s Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Felix Doubront vs. Chris Tillman 09.23.12 at 8:07 am ET
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Felix Doubront will look to build upon his first win since mid-July as he and the Red Sox look to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Orioles, who continue their playoff surge.

Following a seven-start stretch when he went 0-4 with an 8.39 ERA, Doubront (11-9, 5.08 ERA) comes into Sunday’€™s game with back-to-back quality starts. On Sept. 13 against the Yankees, Doubront had one of his better outings of the season, pitching 6 1/3 innings and giving up two runs, but took the loss in a 2-0 New York victory. However, in his most recent start, Doubront gave up three runs over six innings against the Rays and earned his first victory since July 18.

Unlike the rest of the Red Sox rotation, Doubront has limited exposure to the Orioles lineup after making his first career start against Baltimore on May 22 of this season. Doubront gave up two runs in six innings of work in that start but took the loss as the Orioles went on to win 4-1. Before that, Doubront had only appeared twice out of the bullpen against Baltimore, giving up two runs in an inning in 2010 before pitching two scoreless innings against them in 2011.

In his nine career innings against the Orioles, Doubront has given up four runs, all of which have come from home runs. Fortunately for Doubront, only one current Oriole (Steven Tolleson) hit one of those home runs while the rest have posted meager numbers against the left-hander. As a group, the Baltimore lineup is hitting .233 against Doubront with an OPS of just .636 and no extra-base hits other than Tolleson’€™s home run.

Taking the mound opposite Doubront will be one of the Orioles’€™ young upstarts in the starting rotation, 24-year-old Chris Tillman. In two of the past three outings, Tillman looked tremendous, shutting out the White Sox through six innings on Aug. 28. However, he would leave his Sept. 2 start against the Yankees after three innings with an elbow injury. Since then, he has returned to the rotation, looking solid in a one-run, six-inning outing against the Mariners on Sept. 17.

Boasting a 8-2 record with a 3.22 ERA, Tillman has been one of the most consistent cogs in the Baltimore rotation since his first appearance on July 4. One of those losses, though, came at the hands of the Red Sox on Aug. 16. Tillman ended up throwing his third shortest outing of the season at 4 2/3 innings and gave up three runs in the process. Despite the brevity of the outing, Tillman was still forced to throw 110 pitches in the outing, his third-highest total of the season.

Tillman has made one career start at Fenway Park back in 2011 and shut down the Red Sox lineup, throwing five shutout innings. Over his career, though, Tillman’€™s numbers are less impressive: 0-1 with a 5.73 ERA. Against the lineup he’€™ll face Sunday, Tillman’€™s numbers look even worse. In 27 plate appearances against him, the Red Sox lineup is hitting .360 with a .847 OPS against Tillman.

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