The query: How can a team such as Boston, with aspirations of playing deep into October, have such a dramatic disparity between its home and road records?
At first glance, the 34-37 road mark the Red Sox will take into Friday's series opener against the Orioles at Camden Yards seems to befit that of a mediocre club.
Their 52-22 record at Fenway Park, however, is anything but ordinary.
So what gives?
"I think there's a couple of reasons," said manager Terry Francona, whose team enters Friday's action six games ahead of the Rangers in the American League Wild Card chase while trailing the Yankees by seven contests in the AL East. "Because of our bullpen, we've stayed competitive in a lot of games, and we've lost a lot of tough games where maybe we've fought back into it because of our bullpen. That doesn't necessarily excuse our record, but I do think we're built for [Fenway].
"We've got some guys, like [third baseman] Mike Lowell -- perfect example. You put him in this ballpark, and he gets dangerous in a hurry. Some of our things that we do well tend to show up more here. Sometimes, on the road, some of our deficiencies show up. I think our record should be better than it is on the road, but we just try to keep it in perspective."
Should the Red Sox reach the postseason for the sixth time since 2003, they'll have no choice but to shed their road woes. If the regular season ended today, the Sox would once again open the Division Series in Anaheim against the AL West-leading Angels.
Despite its less-than-stellar play away from Fenway, Boston isn't lacking for confidence.
"I think we can play well anywhere," captain Jason Varitek said.
"You can't really worry about whether you play well at home or on the road," reliever Billy Wagner said. "If you're a good team, home-field advantage will always play to your advantage, but I haven't heard anything about, 'Oh gee, we're going on the road' or anything like that. These guys know what's at stake and know how we need to approach these games. I don't think you have to fire them up and say, 'Hey, if we go out there and have a great road trip, we could do something special!' You don't need to motivate these guys."Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Clay Buchholz (5-3, 3.66 ERA)
Buchholz worked seven sparkling innings of one-run ball on Sunday afternoon at Fenway Park in a no-decision against the Rays. Unbeaten in his past six outings (4-0), the 25-year-old has posted a career-high four consecutive quality starts. He is 1-0 with a 5.73 ERA in two appearances against the Orioles this season. BAL: RHP Jeremy Guthrie (10-14, 5.06 ERA)
A winner of three of his past five decisions, Guthrie has yielded just one home run since Aug. 26. Even so, the O's two-time Opening Day starter leads the AL in homers allowed (30), and has surrendered more earned runs (97) than all but one other Major League pitcher. Tidbits
Boston starters have allowed three runs or fewer in 10 consecutive games, going 5-1 with a 1.79 ERA in 65 1/3 innings pitched over that stretch. ... Catcher/first baseman Victor Martinez is batting .357 (20-for-56) with 12 RBIs during his 16-game hitting streak. ... Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is 14-for-35 (.400) in his past 10 contests, hitting safely in nine of those games. ... With 33 home runs this season, left fielder Jason Bay is three shy of setting a career high. Tickets
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Saturday: Red Sox (Jon Lester, 13-7, 3.29) at Orioles (David Hernandez, 4-8, 5.40), 7:05 p.m. ET
Sunday: Red Sox (Daisuke Matsuzaka, 2-5, 7.02) at Orioles (Jason Berken, 5-11, 6.08), 1:35 p.m. ET
Monday: Red Sox (Paul Byrd, 1-1, 5.79) at Royals (Lenny DiNardo, 0-1, 5.23), 8:10 p.m. ET
John Barone is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.