Struggling Red Sox, Orioles open three-game set

MLB

The skidding Boston Red Sox will look to make up ground in the American League East race when they host the slumping Baltimore Orioles in the opener of a three-game series on Friday night.

Boston dropped five games behind Tampa Bay following an 8-1 loss to the first-place Rays on Thursday, capping a three-game series. The Red Sox have dropped 11 of 14 games despite exploding for a season-high run total in a 20-8 rout of the Rays on Wednesday.

Baltimore lost its eighth game in a row Thursday, a 6-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers to complete a three-game sweep.

Boston will send right-hander Nick Pivetta (8-5, 4.34 ERA) to the mound to oppose Baltimore right-hander Spenser Watkins (2-3, 4.22) in Friday’s series opener.

Pivetta has had an up-and-down season, but he is trending upward after a strong start Aug. 7 at Toronto. He tossed six scoreless innings of one-hit ball, finishing with five strikeouts and one walk, but did not factor into the decision in a 1-0, seven-inning defeat.

“I’m just trying to stay right (in the moment),” Pivetta said. “Just build a consistency (in my starts) because I haven’t been consistent as of late — a lot of walks. So, limiting the damage against a really good team, (I’m) happy about that. But I’m hungry for more.”

The right-hander has won just once in his past five starts. In that span, he is 1-2 with a 5.19 ERA, having walked eight and fanned 22 in 26 innings.

Pivetta has faced the Orioles twice this season, winning both starts while permitting six runs on 10 hits with six walks and nine strikeouts over 12 innings. He has won all five of his career starts vs. Baltimore while pitching to a 3.23 ERA.

Watkins is looking to recover after a pair of rough starts against Detroit on Aug. 1 and Tampa Bay on Saturday.

The rookie right-hander allowed a season-high five runs (four earned) on eight hits — including two home runs — while striking out four over six innings in a 12-3 loss to the Rays. It marked his third consecutive loss after he won two of his first three starts.

“I want to build momentum,” Watkins said after the loss. “I want our guys to go out there, put up some runs, me put up a zero, another zero, another zero so we can put ourselves in a good position later in the game.”

Before that contest, Watkins gave up four runs on three hits and two walks with four strikeouts in a 6-2 defeat at Detroit. Over his three-start skid, Watkins has a 6.89 ERA (13 runs over 15 2/3 innings).

Watkins has never faced the Red Sox, but he is 2-1 with a 3.18 ERA and 13 strikeouts in three starts against AL East opponents this season.

Boston has won six of its 10 games against Baltimore this season. After the teams each earned a three-game road sweep in April, the Red Sox took three of four in Baltimore from May 7-10.

–Field Level Media

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