Surprising O's target Fenway sweep

Winners of four straight and six of the last seven, the surprising Baltimore Orioles try to complete a three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox this afternoon when the teams clash at Fenway Park.

Having suffered through 14 consecutive losing campaigns, the Orioles appear to be hitting their stride here in the first week of May thanks to 10 wins in the last 12 contests overall.

On Saturday the O's kept rolling along with an 8-2 romp over Boston which means the squad has outscored the Sox and Yankees during this four-game run by a combined 26-7. Mark Reynolds connected on a three-run homer and Adam Jones added a two-run shot for Baltimore in the third inning as the visitors blew the game open with seven runs in the frame.

Starting pitcher Jason Hammel struck out eight while allowing just two runs on four hits and a walk over 6 2/3 strong innings, en route to his fourth win in five decisions.

"He was good. He pounded the strike zone with good stuff," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of Hammel as the hurler helped Baltimore move to within 1/2 game of Tampa Bay for first place in the American League East.

Chris Davis and Wilson Betemit both chipped in a pair of hits and scored a collective three runs as the Orioles improved their road record to an impressive 10-5.

Adrian Gonzalez accounted for three hits and a run for the Red Sox, while Dustin Pedroia produced two hits for a club that has dropped four in a row and five of the last six. Boston starter Aaron Cook was tagged for six earned runs on eight hits and a walk in a mere 2 2/3 innings before being pulled as the team fell seven games off the pace in the division.

Even though he is again dealing with blister issues, right-hander Clay Buchholz is still penciled in as the starter for the Red Sox this afternoon. The six- year veteran is enjoying a two-game win streak at the moment, even though he has surrendered a total of 11 earned runs in those two outings.

Most recently Buchholz was on the hill against Oakland earlier in the week and managed to get through 6 2/3 innings, even as he permitted six runs on seven hits and five walks, while striking out five. The Texas native has a career mark of 5-3 with a pair of complete game shutouts versus Baltimore in 10 appearances.

As for the Orioles, they have Tommy Hunter making the start today. The 25-year old has won just one of his last four outings, that coming against Toronto on April 24 at home. More recently the right-hander settled in against Oakland last weekend, giving up two runs on seven hits over seven innings, failing to earn a decision in the process.

Hunter, who has given up eight home runs in his last four contests, has a career mark of 2-1 with a 6.52 ERA versus the Red Sox.

At the plate the Red Sox having been hitting the ball at a .270 clip, third- best in the AL and fifth in the major, and that certainly looks good on paper but the bottom line is that the team is batting just .200 over the last week. The squad has struck out an average of more than nine times per game over the last six outings.

David Ortiz is the leader across the board for the Sox in average (.360), home runs (six), RBI (22) and hits (36).

Unfortunately, Ortiz and the rest of the Red Sox have to go up against the top pitching staff in the American League, the only group of hurlers with an ERA under 3.25 as they boast a mark of only 2.76 through 27 games.

Since losing all but two of 18 matchups against Boston in 2009, the Orioles have been balancing the ledger between the squads with them now having split the last 38 encounters.