Game 31: Red Sox at Rangers - No sweep please

Ben Whitehead
Contributing Writer

The Boston Red Sox (20-10) will try to avoid being swept for the first time this season, as they take on the Texas Rangers (19-11) in what should be a fantastic pitching matchup. Both teams send their ace to the mound at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Jon Lester (4-0, 3.11 ERA) goes for Boston and Yu Darvish (5-1, 2.33 ERA) goes for Texas. Lester looks to bounce back from his last outing, when he went six innings and gave up six runs (five earned) in a no-decision loss to the Blue Jays.

Red Sox turn to ace Jon Lester to avoid being swept in Texas.
John Farrell shakes things up for this afternoon’s Sox starting lineup, one that will try to get the bats going for the first time this series, having scored just one run in the first two games (first pitch - 3:05 pm EDT):

1. Ellsbury, CF
2. Nava, RF
3. Pedroia, 2B
4. Ortiz, DH
5. Napoli, 1B
6. Carp, LF
7. Ross, C
8. Drew, SS
9. Ciriaco, 3B

Lester, P

Not their best against the best
The Red Sox lost their third series of the season, following Saturday night’s 5-1 loss to Texas. Their other two series losses came at home against Baltimore and Kansas City. With last night’s loss, Boston fell to 5-6 against teams that are currently in first or second in their respective divisions. Against teams third or worse, the Sox are 15-4.

1-2 punch, but what else?
Sox pitching is much-improved from a season ago, that is very clear. But the numbers may give another perspective. Lester (4-0) and Clay Buchholz (6-0) have combined for half the team’s wins. In fact, the Red Sox are 11-1 when those two pitch. When someone else pitches, Boston is just 9-10. The Red Sox No. 3 starter Ryan Dempster is 2-2, Felix Doubront is 3-1 (despite a 5.67 ERA) and the fifth starter has rotated between John Lackey and Alfredo Aceves. Those two are combined 2-3. That gives the back end of the rotation a combined 7-6 record, with six no-decisions that have resulted in a 2-4 record. Someone on the pitching staff behind Lester and Buchholz needs to go deeper into games and provide the Red Sox a chance to put the game away with their bullpen.

Fishing for Carp
Farrell, looking to get some lefties in the lineup, has slotted Mike Carp in the 6-spot. Of course, Farrell is doing more than playing lefty-righty matchups. Carp is batting .464/.516/1.000 and seems to be standing on second as much as he is in the batter’s box. Of Carp’s 13 hits this season in 28 ABs, he has 5 doubles, 2 triples and 2 home runs. He has struck out nine times, which is concern against a pitcher like Darvish, who leads the majors in punch-outs (58). Still, it’s a smart move by Farrell to put in a hot hitter for a lineup that seems to have left its bats in Toronto.

Law of averages?
Farrell’s lineup interestingly has eight of the top 10 players on the Red Sox in batting average. One of the other two is Jose Iglesias, who is batting .450 in just six games with the big club and is spending his time at AAA Pawtucket. Carp leads the team with a .464 avg., followed by Iglesias and David Ortiz (.447). No other Sox player is above .300; Daniel Nava is next in line at .299.

24 and counting…
Speaking of Ortiz, Big Papi doubled in the second inning of Saturday night’s game, his eighth of the season in just 12 games. That extended his hitting streak to 24 games dating back to July 2, 2012.

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