It's been a while since the Red Sox (or their fans) have had any reason to fear the Baltimore Orioles.
In fact, you probably have to go all the way back to 1997 the last season Baltimore finished with a winning record to find a time when a visit from the O's garnered anything more than chuckle, or indifferent shrug.
"Oh, the Orioles are in town? That's cool. But I think I'll watch something else."
But despite all that, there's no question that the Orioles are getting better. That Buck Showalter has instilled a competitive spirit into the clubhouse. That younger guys like Adam Jones and Matt Wieters are finally starting to realize their potential. That, for the first time in a long time, there's reason for optimism in Baltimore.
They arrive at Fenway tonight with a 16-9 record. They're 8-2 in their last 10 games. And you know there's nothing in the world this team wants more than to pile on Boston's baseball pain and embarrass the Sox in front of their home crowd.
Make no mistake, the Orioles hate Boston. They're to the Sox what the Buffalo Bills are to the Pats. The lovable losers that, over time, have built up so much jealousy and rage over, that they live for Boston failure. That's why they celebrated after knocking the Sox out in Game 162 of last season, and why they're no doubt getting a kick out of the way Bobby V and company have started this one.
In the past, an Orioles team would come into Fenway feeling over-matched and intimidated, and the result was predictably ugly. The worst stretch occurred between 2006-2009, when the Sox amassed a 55-11 record against the O's. But in recent years, Baltimore has narrowed the gap. In 2010, the teams tied the season series 9-9. Last year, the Sox eked out a 10-8 advantage.
Is this the year Baltimore finally gets the best of Boston?
Can't say it would be a surprise.
Then again, the last time the Red Sox lost a season series to the Orioles
Thing didn't turn out so bad.