BALTIMORE -- Exactly one year to the date of completing the biggest September collapse in baseball history, the Red Sox were right back at Camden Yards, but with a much different feel in the air.
This time, it is the Orioles fighting to win the American League East, or at least earn an AL Wild Card spot. The Red Sox have been playing out the string for weeks.
If circumstances had been different, this series could have represented a big grudge match for Boston, but Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett were all traded. Jacoby Ellsbury is still hurt and was out of Friday's lineup. David Ortiz is done for the season. Jon Lester, who started the infamous Game No. 162 last year and left with a one-run lead, won't pitch until next week in New York.
Dustin Pedroia and Ryan Lavarnway were the only players in Boston's starting lineup Friday who also were in the finale last Sept. 28.
"You'd have to ask the guys. I'm not sure," said manager Bobby Valentine. "There aren't many guys who are going to be in that starting nine tonight who were playing on this team last year. It's not like a revenge factor."
But there is something to be said for the fact the Red Sox will be playing in what amounts to a postseason atmosphere for these last six games -- three at Camden Yards and the last three at Yankee Stadium.
Entering play on Friday, the Yankees led the Orioles by one game in the AL East.
"It should be [fun]," said Valentine. "It should be a lot of people here this whole weekend. The [players] should be going for it. Guys, when they get out on the field, should feel the excitement. I think they will. I think we've played pretty good effort-wise. I don't think we have to reach down and find something special other than a couple of bloops to fall in and nice double play in a timely fashion, and it will all work out."