Thursday's Red Sox-Orioles matchups: Jon Lester vs. Chris Tillman

August 29, 2013 - 6:00 am
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After struggling in June with an unsightly 7.62 ERA in five starts, Jon Lester appears to finally have reverted back into his role as ace of the Red Sox rotation with a 2.70 ERA in August. Lester looks to continue his stretch of strong starts on Thursday, as the lefty and the Sox will face off against right-hander Chris Tillman and the Orioles in the finale of a three-game series at Fenway Park. Lester had one of the strongest starts of any pitcher in the American League this season, as he went undefeated in six April starts with a 4-0 record and a 3.11 ERA. Along with Clay Buchholz (1.19 April ERA), Lester was one of the chief reasons why the Sox led all MLB clubs with a 19-8 record that month. However, it seemed like Lester hit a wall in June, as the lefty surrendered 38 hits in 28 1/3 June innings and gave up eight home runs, two more than he had allowed in April and May combined. The Red Sox gave the beleaguered pitcher nine days of rest from July 14-22 by shuffling their rotation after the All-Star break. It appears that extra rest has paid off in a major way for Lester, who has a 4-1 record with a 2.31 ERA in his seven starts since the All-Star break. He has only given up one home run in his last 33 1/3 innings. In his latest start on Saturday, his first career appearance against the Dodgers, Lester held one of the hottest teams in baseball in check for 7 1/3 innings and only allowed three hits. Koji Uehara retired the last four LA batters to secure the 4-2 victory for the Sox and give Lester his 12th win of the season. "I know what I'm capable of. It's just a matter of going out there and doing it," Lester said after the game. "Since the break, I've felt good physically, and I feel like I'm in a good place throwing the ball right now." While Lester has been subpar this year against Baltimore (1-1, 3.75 ERA in two starts), historically he's been dominant against the team, as he owns a career record of 15-2 with a 2.72 ERA in 23 starts. In his last start against the O's on July 28, Lester did not allow a run over seven innings while striking out eight batters in a 5-0 victory. Currently tied for second in the American League (with three other players) in wins with 14, Tillman has been a force at the top of the Baltimore rotation this season. He was named an All-Star earlier this season for the first time in his young career. Tillman (14-4, 3.66 ERA, 1.25 WHIP) was impressive in his last start Saturday against the A's, as he only surrendered three hits over eight innings, but he was bested by Oakland pitcher Jarrod Parker (eight innings, five hits, one run) and received the loss in a tough-luck 2-1 defeat. Winless since Aug. 9, Tillman likely is happy to be facing Boston again, as he's 2-0 against the Sox this season with an impressive 0.98 ERA. In his last start against the Sox on July 26, Tillman only gave up two hits over seven innings and struck out eight batters in a 6-0 victory. Orioles vs. Lester (LHP) Nick Markakis (64 plate appearances): .233 BA/.281 OBP/.333 SLG, 6 doubles, 14 strikeouts Adam Jones (55): .292/.382/.354, 3 doubles, 5 RBIs Brian Roberts (46): .220/.304/.439, 6 doubles, 10 strikeouts Matt Wieters (42): .359/.405/.487, 14 hits, 7 RBIs J.J. Hardy (22): .286/.318/.571, 1 home run, 2 RBIs Chris Davis (20): .105/.150/.316, 1 home run, 3 RBIs Danny Valencia (11): .182/.182/.455, 1 home run, 2 RBIs Alexi Casilla (10): .000/.200/.000, 2 walks Manny Machado (9): .222/.222/.333, 1 double, 1 RBI Steve Pearce (8): .000/.125/.000, 1 RBI, 5 strikeouts Taylor Teagarden (7): .143/.143/.143, 5 strikeouts Nate McLouth (4): .000/.000/.000, 1 strikeout Ryan Flaherty has not faced Lester. Red Sox vs. Tillman (RHP)  Dustin Pedroia (23 plate appearances): .300 BA/.348 OBP/.350 SLG, 1 double, 3 RBIs Jacoby Ellsbury (15): .200/.200/.267, 1 double, 4 strikeouts Daniel Nava (14): .182/.357/.182, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts Jarrod Saltalamacchia (13): .077/.077/.154, 1 double, 5 strikeouts David Ortiz (10): .000/.300/.000, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts Mike Napoli (9): .375/.444/.375, 3 singles, 1 RBI Shane Victorino (9): .250/.333/.250, 2 singles, 1 walk Mike Carp (6): .200/.333/.200, 1 walk, 1 strikeout Stephen Drew (5), .000/.400/.000, 2 walks Will Middlebrooks (5): .000/.000/.000 David Ross (2): .000/.000/.000, 1 strikeout Xander Bogaerts and Jonny Gomes have not faced Tillman.

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