The Baltimore Orioles versus Boston Red Sox clash was dubbed a potential season decider back in Spring yet when the two sides faced one another at Fenway Park last night the game felt like a dead rubber.
The O’s strolled to a 4-0 victory in the series opener and extended their lead at the top of the American League East division to 10, while last season’s World Series champions languished at the bottom of the division, three games away from elimination from the Wild Card spots.
What a difference 12 months makes. September 2013 saw the Red Sox charge into the postseason, powered by the big-hitting David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, as they won the division.
The Orioles finished tied-third with the New York Yankees in the AL East, 12 games behind the Red Sox, who then went on to lift the World Series in October.
But 2014 has played out very differently for the two sides.
Boston face elimination and their season effectively over with more than 15 games remaining after performing badly in the high summer months.
Baltimore on the other hand, are potentially on the road to their best finish to a regular season since 1983, when they won the World Series.
The Birds are just 11 games away from clinching the division title with 19 left to play.
Last night’s success at Fenway Park maintained Baltimore’s momentum (7-3) into the postseason, which will be key for their dreams of divisional and championship titles.
Currently, only American League West division leaders Los Angeles Angels have a stronger last 10 (8-2) which has enabled them to stretch an eight game lead over Oakland Athletics.
Miguel Gonzalez’s 6 1/3 inning shutout led the way for the Orioles last night, while scores from Neslon Cruz (2), Chris Davis and Alejandro De Aza made the game comfortable for the visitors.
They were given a helping hand by the lackluster Red Sox fielding, with three of their runs coming during fielding errors.
In the sixth inning, Cruz got home for his second of the night and was quickly followed by Davis after shortstop Xander Bogaerts made an uncharacteristic throwing error. In the Orioles next inning, left fielder Yoenis Cespedes dropped Adam Jones on a sacrificial fly which saw De Aza home and Jones to first.
Baltimore will hope their luck continues in the remaining two games at Fenway Park to give themselves a healthy cushion over the chasing pack.
The Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays are both 10 games behind and the Orioles have upcoming series against both sides at Oriole Park, starting with a four-game series against the New York outfit this weekend.
The Red Sox, who look consigned to playing for pride until the end of the month, hit the road this Friday with series against AL Central leaders Kansas City Royals and NL outfit Pittsburgh Pirates.