Baltimore vs. Boston - Preview - July 8, 2011
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Orioles-Red Sox Preview

Josh Beckett hasn't received much run support this season, but the veteran right-hander is still getting the job done.

In his final start before the All-Star break, Beckett will try to lead the AL East-leading Red Sox to their fourth straight victory overall and fourth in a row over the Baltimore Orioles on Friday night at Fenway Park.

Boston (52-35) is scoring a major league-best 5.3 runs per game, but Beckett (7-3, 2.12 ERA) is receiving an average of 3.48 runs per nine innings. Having the league's second-best ERA has helped the right-hander stay in games and earn his third trip to the Midsummer Classic.

"I don't know if I ever really paid much attention to (run-support average), and I don't think he does," manager Terry Francona told the Red Sox' official website after Beckett fanned a season-high 11 in Sunday's 2-1 win at Houston. "I think he loves pitching good. I think he's smart enough to know that if pitches the way he can pitch, things will be OK."

Beckett - making his first start at home since June 4 - has been outstanding at Fenway Park this season, going 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA in six outings.

He wasn't sharp in a 5-4 loss in Baltimore on April 27, giving up four runs and seven hits over six innings.

The Red Sox, winners of seven of eight and leading the New York Yankees by one-half game, will try to give Beckett more support after tagging the Orioles for a season-high six home runs in Thursday's 10-4 series-opening victory.

It was the most homers for the Red Sox since they also went deep six times in a 10-0 win over the Orioles on Sept. 8, 2009.

"We swung the bats great and we just have to keep it going," said Dustin Pedroia , who hit a three-run shot Thursday for his second homer in three games.

Baltimore (36-49), meanwhile, has been outscored 40-15 while losing four in a row.

Manager Buck Showalter could use a lengthy start from rookie Zach Britton (6-6, 3.47) on Friday with his overworked bullpen logging 18 2-3 innings over the last five contests.

"It's that time of year when people are kind of emptying the tank in the bullpen because of the off days coming up," said Showalter, whose club has dropped nine of 10. "A short leash on the starters and we don't have that luxury."

Britton, who allowed one run in six innings in a 4-1 victory over the Red Sox on April 26 to become the first rookie starter in franchise history to win four games in April, doesn't seem intimidated about making his first start at Fenway.

"I can throw in a parking lot against whoever," he told the Orioles' official website. "It doesn't bother me."

Britton, though, should be careful pitching to All-Star center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury , who has homered in two straight and is batting .437 (45 for 103) during a 23-game hitting streak versus Baltimore.

Adrian Gonzalez could also be a tough out. The All-Star first baseman is batting a league-best .351 and increased his major league-leading RBI total to 76 on Thursday with his first homer in 10 games.

Gonzalez is 22 for 45 (.489) during an 11-game hitting streak against Baltimore.

Orioles first baseman Derrek Lee , 1 for 21 in the last five games, is 5 for 9 with two doubles and two homers off Beckett.

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