What to watch for: Sox-Orioles final series

September, 26, 2013
9/26/13
11:20
PM ET
BALTIMORE -- Beyond determining if the Red Sox will hold on to claim the league's best record and home-field advantage, here are a few things to watch for in Boston's final series of the regular season, a three-game set against the Baltimore Orioles:

* Koji Uehara needs one strikeout to reach 100 for the season and become the eighth reliever in Sox history to strike out 100 or more.

Greg Harris is the last Sox reliever to record 100 strikeouts in a season, in 1993, and Dick Radatz did it four times, including a club record for relievers of 181 in 1964. But in all seven previous instances, the relievers with 100-plus K's threw more than 100 innings; Uehara has pitched 72 1/3 innings.

[+] EnlargeKoji Uehara, David Ortiz
Winslow Townson/Getty ImagesDavid Ortiz (29 home runs) and Koji Uehara (99 strikeouts) enter the regular season's final weekend on the cusp of statistical milestones.
* More Koji: Uehara is averaging 12.32 strikeouts per nine innings, second in club history among Sox relievers to Jonathan Papelbon's 12.96 K's per 9 in 2007. Only three Sox relievers ever have averaged better than 12 K's per 9. Lee Smith was at 12.23 in 1989 and Papelbon was at 12.17 in 2011.

* David Ortiz, who drove in two runs Wednesday for his seventh 100-RBI season, needs one more home run to finish with his seventh 30-homer season. Mike Napoli, who hasn't played since last Friday, needs one more home run to match his season total of 24 last season.

Ortiz and Napoli are the only Sox players with 20 or more home runs this season, the fewest since 1997, when Mo Vaughn hit 35 and Nomar Garciaparra hit 30. In 2003, the Sox had six players who hit 20 or more.

* With a .307 batting average, Ortiz is the only .300 hitter in the Sox lineup at the moment. But there are five other Sox players within five percentage points of hitting .300 entering the final weekend: Jacoby Ellsbury is at .299, Shane Victorino .297, Daniel Nava and Dustin Pedroia .296, and Mike Carp is at .295. Only Carp among that group does not have enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title.

Ortiz would have to go hitless in his final 13 at-bats to fall below .300. Only three times since 2000 have the Sox had just one .300 hitter: Adrian Gonzalez (2012), Manny Ramirez (2006) and Ramirez (2001). Gonzalez, of course, was traded before the end of the season.

* With his next double, Jarrod Saltalamacchia will set a club record for catchers with 40. The Sox have five players with 30 or more doubles, and three players could join that number: Nava (29), Stephen Drew (28) and Victorino (26).

* Take a look at Saltalamacchia's slash line entering the weekend compared to 2012:

2012 -- .222/.288/.454/.742

2013 -- .272/.338/.465/.804

Saltalamacchia's batting average jump from .222 to .272 (50 percentage points) is the biggest improvement among catchers with at least 400 plate appearances over each of the past two seasons, and the sixth-biggest jump among any MLB players with the same qualifications. His OPS jump of .062 is the second-highest improvement among catchers with the same qualifiers from last season.

* Victorino, by the way, is the only player in Sox history with 15-plus home runs, 20-plus stolen bases and 10-plus sacrifice hits. It has been done 17 times by 15 different players since division play began in 1969, but Victorino had far fewer plate appearances (527) than most of the players on the list.

* And the Sox have been successful in their past 37 stolen base attempts, dating to Aug. 9. Orioles catcher Matt Wieters ranks fourth in the AL with a caught stealing percentage of 35.3 percent, throwing out 24 of 68 attempted base stealers.

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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