Thu Sep 16 11:15pm ET
The Boston Red Sox look to pad their American League wild card spot when they host the Baltimore Orioles to kick off their final homestand of the regular season Friday.
The Red Sox (83-65) enter the three-game series in a virtual tie with the Toronto Blue Jays for the wild card. Just a half-game back are the New York Yankees, leaving no margin for error. The team to clinch the first wild card will host the second-place club in a one-game playoff, while third place will sit out the postseason.
After Baltimore, Boston will face the New York Mets in two before a pivotal three-game set against the Yankees that could conclude with the final contest at Fenway Park this year should the Red Sox fall short of the playoffs.
"Not too many people thought that the last homestand of the season was going to mean something," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "Now, it means a lot."
The club will look to take advantage of the Orioles (47-99), who are on the way to a third 100-loss season in four years (the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign being the lone exception). That said, Baltimore stunned the Yankees 3-2 in 10 innings Thursday, much to the joy of idle Boston.
The Red Sox enter Friday hoping left-hander Chris Sale (3-0, 2.52 ERA) will return from the COVID-19 injured list to take the mound. He has not yet been confirmed as the team's starter. The Orioles plan to counter with lefty Keegan Akin (2-9, 6.83).
Along with Sale could come a slew of reinforcements for Boston as reliever Matt Barnes, outfielder Jarren Duran and infielder Christian Arroyo were all acknowledged by Cora as nearing return from the COVID-19 list. Barnes allowed two runs in one inning with Double-A Portland on Wednesday, while Arroyo went 0-for-3 for Triple-A Worcester on Thursday.
Duran was unable to make a rehab appearance.
The Red Sox are also playing with momentum after taking two of three from the Mariners to finish a tough 3-3 road trip. Both their victories at Seattle, which is also still in the AL wild card picture, featured late-inning rallies.
The Orioles had lost five straight before Thursday's win. Austin Hays plated the winning run with a single in the bottom of the 10th after the club had tied the score in the ninth on a wild pitch.
"We haven't caught a ton of breaks, and we feel like we got one tonight," said skipper Brandon Hyde.
Earlier in the contest, Ryan Mountcastle broke Baltimore's rookie record for home runs with his 29th of the season.
Akin allowed three runs over six innings in a loss to the Blue Jays last time out. He is 0-2 with a 5.63 ERA in two career appearances against the Red Sox.
Should Sale pitch Friday, it would be his first outing since giving up five runs (one earned) on 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sept. 6. Sale is 9-2 with a 2.63 ERA in 21 games (15 starts) lifetime vs. the Orioles.
--Field Level Media
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