The Red Sox have yet to announce who their No. 1 starter will be in the playoffs, but the way Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester have been pitching, there shouldn't be a wrong choice.
Lester, who takes the mound for the last time during the regular season Saturday as the Red Sox play the Orioles, has already set a new career high for innings, pitching 208 1/3 in 2013. And he's gotten better with each one.
The 6-foot-4, 240-pound lefty has pitched to a 3.13 ERA in July, followed by a 2.97 ERA in August, with a sparkling 1.80 ERA in four September starts.
"I feel great," Lester said. "Just getting back to being me. I had it in the beginning of the year, hit a little bit of a bump in the middle and now I'm back to being me. "
Lester's late-season magnificence is consistent with what he's done throughout his career, having saved his best for last with a career 3.29 ERA in September and October.
"It's something I've always said, especially when I started so slow in years past: it's not how you start, it's how you finish," Lester said. "Hopefully I can keep carrying these good starts into the postseason and give these guys a chance to score some runs early, and hopefully keep some runs off the board for the other team."
The Red Sox will have a chance to clinch home-field advantage throughout the postseason if the A's lose a game in their final series in Seattle, or if the Red Sox win on Saturday.
"We did it two years ago and we're going to do it again," manager Buck Showalter said of running his best team out there. "It has nothing to do with trying to rain on somebody's parade. It's just compete and do what's right. Usually when that's the challenge, to do what's right, our guys do that."
On the mound for the Orioles will be Wei-Yin Chen, who gave up a career-high 11 hits against the Red Sox on Sept. 18.
"This is the big leagues," said Chen, who has allowed 24 hits over his last 16 1/3 innings while posting a 5.51 ERA. "I made a couple mistakes and I paid the price. This is a lesson I need to learn and carry on. I hope I have a better performance next time."
Red Sox: Victorino out, Napoli in
Mike Napoli was back in the Red Sox's lineup Friday after missing a week while resting a sore left foot, and he is expected to be healthy for the team's playoff run.
"The one thing that we discussed internally, with the downtime, this should allow him to get through the rest of the season, whatever remains, in good shape," said manager John Farrell.
Shane Victorino took Friday off with a jammed right thumb, though he's expected to return on Saturday.
"That's part of him being out of the lineup today. I can tell you this -- in my exchange with him, he wasn't real happy about being out of the lineup," Farrell said. "He's dealing with something, and probably seven other guys on the field are dealing with something as well."
Orioles: Johnson likely to return in 2014
Jim Johnson, the first O's closer ever to record multiple 40-save seasons, is eligible for arbitration following the season and the team is planning on offering him a contract.
"Jim Johnson is one of our core players," said executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette, who has emphasized keeping that core intact for the organization to sustain success. "Jimmy has done something historic in terms of the numbers of games he's saved over the last couple years, so he's established significant value. He came into the job last year, I think he had nine saves in his career, and over the last two years, he has over 100, 99."
• Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia has four home runs in his last nine starts.
• The Orioles (9-8) are the only AL East team to have a winning record against the Red Sox this year.