The Boston Red Sox are nearing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and will close out the regular season Friday with the first of three straight games against the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.
The American League East-champion Red Sox are two games ahead of the Oakland Athletics for home-field advantage with three to go and have won four of their last six games, including Wednesday's 15-5 pounding of the Colorado Rockies in the finale of a short two-game set at Coors Field.
Will Middlebrooks hit a grand slam and finished with two homers and seven RBI, while Shane Victorino had three hits, including a three-run homer for the Red Sox, who got four hits and three RBI from Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Jacoby Ellsbury returned to action on Wednesday and made his first start since Sept. 5 because of a compression fracture in his right foot, ending with a hit and two runs scored.
"Yeah it was a nice game back," Ellsbury said. "I'm definitely excited about it. I felt pretty good out there."
Jake Peavy benefited from the run support and picked up the win even though he gave up five runs and eight hits in six innings.
Clay Buchholz will make his fourth start Friday since coming off the disabled with a shoulder issue and is 11-1 with a 1.60 earned run average in 15 starts. He lost for the first time this season in Saturday's 4-2 setback versus Toronto, which recorded three runs -- two earned -- and six hits in six innings off the right-hander.
"The three runs doesn't dictate how he pitched tonight," Red Sox catcher David Ross said. "His pitches were sharper. I thought he had better fastball command. His sinker was really sinking. We talked a lot before the game and I think he found some mechanical issues, or some sharper things in the bullpen that made the ball really move."
Buchholz is 5-0 in six road starts this season and 8-3 with a 3.36 ERA in 15 career games (14 starts) against the Orioles. He tossed seven scoreless innings against the Orioles on April 8 in a 3-1 win.
Baltimore took the last two matchups of three versus the Blue Jays and had lost six in a row. In Thursday's 3-2 win over the Jays, Matt Wieters homered and finished with two RBI and Nick Markakis added a pair of hits and drove in a run for the Orioles.
Miguel Gonzalez was sharp on the mound for the Orioles and gave up just an unearned run and two hits in seven innings. Tommy Hunter threw a scoreless eighth and closer Jim Johnson worked around a hit in the ninth for his 48th save. Johnson leads the American League in saves and is one off Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel for the Major League lead.
Scott Feldman draws the start for the O's Friday and he has a 5-5 mark in 14 starts to go along with a 3.57 ERA since coming over via trade with the Chicago Cubs. Feldman is 0-1 in his last three starts and lost at Tampa Bay on Sunday, as he gave up three runs and six hits in 6 1/3 frames.
Feldman has been reached for seven runs in his last three starts and owns a 1-1 mark and a 4.09 ERA in 10 career meetings (4 starts) with the Red Sox.
The Orioles have a 9-7 edge on the Red Sox this season and are 3-1 in the past four matchups between the AL East rivals.