(SportsNetwork.com) - The Baltimore Orioles will visit one of the most patriotic cities in the country when they open a three-game series Friday afternoon against the hometown Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.
The Independence Day clash pits a pair of American League East rivals against each other for the 11th time this season. The Orioles and Red Sox have split the first 10 matchups, including a four-game split at Fenway from April 18-21.
Baltimore is 16-8 in Boston since September of 2011 and leads the AL East by mere percentage points ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays. The club has helped itself to the top of the division with four straight wins and 11 in the last 16 tries, and just completed a four-game sweep of the Texas Rangers.
In Thursday's 5-2 victory over the Rangers, Steve Pearce set a new career-high with four hits and drove in two runs. He has reached base safely in seven straight and 14 of the past 15 games. Nick Hundley finished 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored for Baltimore, which is a season-high eight games over .500 and went 7-4 on the homestand.
Hundley has now scored a run in five straight games, a new career-high.
"We're relying in some people and people are stepping up," Pearce said afterward. "We're pitching, we're hitting, we're having timely hitting. We're finding ways to get it done."
The Orioles once again held on to a lead after eight innings, improving to 40-3 when that occurs. They won Thursday's game without the aid of a home run for the first time since April 26 versus Kansas City. The O's had hit multiple homers in six consecutive games before last night and led the majors with 46 home runs in June.
Wei-Yin Chen collected the win over Texas by limiting the visitors to two runs across six innings and is now 8-3 on the season. Zach Britton came on in the ninth and registered his 12th save.
Baltimore averaged just over five runs per game on its recent homestand and will visit Washington as well on this road trip. Miguel Gonzalez hopes to get some of that support when he toes the rubber Friday. He is 4-5 with a 4.56 earned run average and 1-2 in his last three decisions.
Gonzalez did not factor in the outcome of a 12-7 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday and was touched for three runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. He has allowed three or more runs in three straight starts (10 total). The right-hander, who is making his fourth start since being placed on the disabled list June 6 with an oblique injury, is 3-0 lifetime with a 3.13 ERA in five games (3 starts) against Boston. He has a 1-0 mark in three appearances (1 start) at Fenway.
The Red Sox will take their swings at Gonzalez in hopes of erasing a recent three-game sweep at the hands of the Chicago Cubs. The series began a 10-game homestand for the Red Sox, who were embarrassed to the tune of 16-9 in Wednesday's finale.
Chicago had a 19-16 advantage in hits and belted four home runs. Mookie Betts hit a two-run homer -- the first of his career -- and both Brock Holt and Dustin Pedroia ended with three hits in defeat.
Brandon Workman allowed two homers in the start and gave up six runs in four innings. He walked three and struck out three for Boston, which trailed 6-1 heading into the bottom of the fourth inning.
"It was a rough night on the mound," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "I will say a number of positive things offensively, but not enough to come back from the deficit."
The Red Sox had won three of four games before this past series and dropped to 4-9 since June 19. They will host the Chicago White Sox for four games next week and have a 20-22 record at home.
Jon Lester looks to get the July 4th fireworks going when he toes the rubber Friday. Lester is 9-7 with a strong 2.92 earned run average and will try for his fourth straight winning decision. He improved to 3-0 in his last four starts and 5-1 in the previous six decisions in Saturday's 2-1 win at Yankee Stadium, where he outdueled Masahiro Tanaka and surrendered only an unearned run in eight innings.
Lester will make his ninth start at Fenway Park (4-4) and has enjoyed success in his career against the Orioles, going 15-4 in 26 starts with a 2.92 ERA. He has thrown at least five innings in every start against Baltimore.
The left-hander is only 2-4 in seven day starts.