for this game

Red Sox hope to get out of cellar in Baltimore

May 22, 2012 - 3:16 PM (Sports Network) - It may not seem like much at first, but the Boston Red Sox are on the verge of getting out of last place in the American League East. Not only that, but they can do so against the division leader this evening as they tangle with the Baltimore Orioles for the second contest of a three-game series.

After an epic collapse last September cost the Red Sox a playoff spot, the 2012 campaign didn't get off to a great start either. Boston lost 10 of its first 14 games and sat 7 1/2 contests back of first place after getting swept in three games at home by Baltimore on May 4-6.

However, the Red Sox have put together a 9-2 surge to get back to .500 at 21-21, putting them into a tie with the Yankees for last in the division. Both clubs sit two games behind the first-place Orioles.

Baltimore lost its second straight following a five-game winning streak with last night's 8-6 series-opening setback. The Red Sox broke a five-all tie in the seventh when Adrian Gonzalez hit a bases-loaded sacrifice fly off Baltimore reliever Kevin Gregg before rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks brought home another run with a single.

Middlebrooks logged his second career three-hit game and David Ortiz launched a solo homer in Boston's third straight win.

"We're going to play hard every night," remarked second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "We've won a lot of games here lately. We've been playing good ball as of late, we just have to keep it going."

Manager Bobby Valentine will now need to find a way to keep Middlebrooks in the lineup with the possibility of Kevin Youkilis returning to the team today. Youkilis hasn't played since April 28 due to a lower back ailment and hit just .219 with two homers and nine RBI in 18 games before going on the disabled list.

Middlebrooks is hitting .297 with five homers and 16 RBI and could keep his roster spot with outfielder Cody Ross having been lost for several weeks due to a fractured bone in his left foot.

Adam Jones extended his hitting streak to 13 straight games and Chris Davis had a solo homer for the Orioles, who will try to avoid dropping a season-high third straight game for the first time since April 9-11.

Gregg took the loss, just Baltimore's second in its last nine versus the Red Sox, allowing two runs in his relief appearance.

"The way the ball was coming out and the location of the pitches, they were good pitches," said Gregg. "Sometimes you give up hits on pitches that you're happy with."

The Orioles hope that Brian Matusz can continue a recent trend of successful starts tonight against the Red Sox.

The 25-year-old southpaw is 3-1 over his past five outings while allowing three runs or less in four of them. The lone blunder came in a loss to the Rangers on May 7, one in which he allowed seven runs over five frames.

Matusz bounced back to beat the Rays five days later and then held the Royals to three runs over six innings of Thursday's victory that pushed him to 3-4 with a 5.36 earned run average in eight starts on the season.

Matusz is 2-1 with a 4.02 ERA in six career outings versus the Red Sox.

Red Sox lefty Felix Doubront hasn't lost since May 1 and he'll look for a fourth straight winning start this evening.

Doubront held the Rays to two runs -- one earned -- on six hits and a season- high four walks over 5 2/3 innings of a 5-3 road win on Thursday. He also struck out seven and got a lift from his bullpen while moving to 4-1 with a 4.09 ERA on the season.

"He got a little out of sorts, but he's a good pitcher. After all that nonsense, to only give up two runs: that's a good job," Valentine said of his starter.

The 24-year-old is undefeated on the road this year in four starts, going 3-0 with a 3.52 ERA. He has never faced Baltimore as a starter, but has allowed two runs over three career relief innings against the club.