The Boston Red Sox made a huge statement over the weekend. They try to do the same on Tuesday when they open a three-game set with the Baltimore Orioles at Fenway Park.
Boston took two of three from the hottest team in baseball, the Los Angeles, Dodgers, and stretched its lead atop the American League East standings over the Tampa Bay Rays to 1 1/2 games.
Baltimore, meanwhile, enters this series 5 1/2 games back of the Red Sox.
Boston handed the Dodgers their first series loss since June 14-16 on Sunday behind a terrific effort from Jake Peavy, as the Red Sox rolled to an 8-1 triumph. Peavy gave up three hits in the win, while Mike Napoli knocked in three runs to help Boston win for the fifth time in eight chances.
"This shows the caliber of ballclub that we are," Peavy said. "We're on the same level with those guys. I knew the day I walked into this clubhouse what we had here. And every guy, man for man, knows that we're capable of playing with anybody on a given day. It's just up to us to be prepared to do that."
Baltimore had a successful weekend of its own, as it took two of three from the Oakland Athletics to draw within 2 1/2 games of the second wild card spot in the AL. The O's had lost six of nine before the series win in Oakland.
"I've said many times, the baseball gods, if you keep grinding, they'll shine on you, and our guys have. They've never given in," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said after his team's win over the A's on Friday. "When these guys' backs are to the wall, I have a lot of faith in what they'll bring."
Baltimore stands a good chance at slicing into the Red Sox's advantage, as it has won six of 10 from them this season after going 13-5 versus Boston a year ago.
Getting the call for the O's in the opener will be Taiwanese left-hander Wei- Yin Chen, who snapped a three-game losing streak his last time out. Chen beat the Rays on Wednesday, surrendering two runs and six hits in seven innings to improve to 7-6, while lowering his ERA to 3.19.
Chen is 2-1 in four starts versus the Red Sox with a 2.96 ERA.
Boston will counter with a lefty of its own in Felix Doubront, who is 9-6 with a 3.79 ERA. Doubront beat the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday, limiting them to a run and five hits in eight innings.
Doubront, though, is 0-2 against the O's with a 3.58 ERA in seven games (4 starts) against them.