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Orioles-Red Sox Preview

The Associated Press

Nelson Cruz got back to carrying Baltimore's surging offense and there's little reason to believe the Orioles can't continue hitting against Jake Peavy.

The Orioles will try to stay atop the AL East with their sixth win in seven games as they take on the slumping Boston Red Sox on Sunday in the finale of a three-game set.

Baltimore (47-40), which ranks among MLB leaders with 107 home runs and a .266 batting average, is enjoying another surge with 6.0 runs per game and a .294 average with 13 homers over its last seven.

The Orioles bounced back from a walkoff 3-2 loss in the opener of Saturday's doubleheader with a 7-4 win in the nightcap and moved ahead by one game in the division with Toronto's loss in Oakland.

Cruz, who has team highs of 27 homers and 70 RBIs, had been batting .162 over his previous 17 games before going a career-best 5 for 5 Saturday night. He fell just shy of the cycle when he was thrown out at third in the eighth inning.

"I tried one last year and I got thrown out at third, too," said Cruz, who last tripled in 2011. "It's why I don't try it."

Adam Jones added three more hits Saturday, leaving him 15 for 32 over a nine-game hitting streak. He's also batting .414 with four home runs and nine RBIs over his last 15.

Now Baltimore will try to add to Peavy's woes while improving to 7-6 in the season series with the Red Sox (39-48), who are 1-4 on their 10-game homestand.

Peavy (1-7, 4.82 ERA) hasn't won since late April, dropping seven straight decisions while posting a 5.65 ERA in his last 12 starts. Making matters worse, Boston's offense has provided him with just six runs of support over his last five.

The right-hander's ERA is slightly better at Fenway Park (3.81), but he's still 0-3 over nine starts there this season. He's 1-4 with a 6.00 ERA in eight road outings. Peavy allowed two runs over six innings in Monday's 2-0 home loss to the Chicago Cubs.

Peavy had been 2-0 with a 3.15 ERA in three career starts versus Baltimore before giving up nine runs and 18 hits - including four home runs - over 12 2-3 innings in two meetings this season.

Jones has gone 6 for 7 with a home run when facing Peavy in 2014, while Cruz, Nick Markakis and Ryan Flaherty have also homered in the matchup. Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy, though, are a combined 3 for 32 lifetime against him.

Manny Machado went 2 for 5 Saturday night in his return from a five-game suspension for intentionally throwing his bat on the field against Oakland on June 8.

Another scoring outburst would certainly make things easier on Kevin Gausman (3-2, 3.86), who is expected to be recalled from Triple-A. The right-hander was sent down after allowing five runs over five innings in a 5-2 home loss to Tampa Bay on June 27.

In his only career start against the Red Sox, he gave up two runs over 5 1-3 innings in a 5-4, 13-inning home win June 13, 2013.

Stephen Drew, hitting .136 coming into Saturday, went deep in both games for his first homers since Boston's World Series-clinching win in Game 6.

"Everybody's grinding," Drew said after the Red Sox fell to 12-19 since June 2. "We're working hard."

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