Lester Takes Texas Hill With Wild Card Lead on the Line

Lester Takes Texas Hill With Wild Card Lead on the Line The Red Sox go back on the road, which was devastating in their last adventure away from Fenway.

On that trip they traveled to Baltimore (3-0), Tampa Bay (0-2), and New York (0-4). But the just-completed four-game series against Detroit (3-1) at Fenway did much to restore their confidence, despite Thursday’s 2-0 loss to a dominant Justin Verlander. With just a half-game lead over the Rangers in the wild-card race, the Sox will need to win two out of three in Arlington in order to remain in front of the Rangers.

When & Where

8:05 p.m. ET (NESN), Aug. 14, 2009
Rangers Ballpark, Arlington, Texas

Records

Red Sox  (65-49, 2nd  place in AL East)
Rangers (63-49, 2nd place in AL West)

Skinny

The Sox are 1-5 against the Rangers this season, including 1-3 at Fenway in June. It was the Sox’ first series loss to the Rangers in Boston since August 1993. The Sox also visited Texas July 20-22, where they were swept in three games, the first time they were swept by the Rangers since May 2004. 

Starting Lineups

Red Sox
Rangers
Josh Reddick, CF Omar Vizquel, 2B
Dustin Pedroia, 2B Michael Young, 3B
Victor Martinez, 1B Marlon Byrd, CF
Jason Bay, LF Andruw Jones, DH
J.D. Drew, RF Josh Hamilton, RF
Mike Lowell, 3B Hank Blalock, 1B
David Ortiz, DH David Murphy, LF
Jason Varitek, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Nick Green, SS Elvis Andrus, SS

Pitching Matchup

LHP Jon Lester (9-7, 3.67 ERA) vs. RHP Kevin Millwood (9-7, 3.38 ERA)
Lester did not get a decision in his last outing, Sunday against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. In seven innings, he gave up one run on five hits and struck out seven without allowing a walk, leaving with the Sox with the lead. The home run he allowed to Alex Rodriguez in the seventh inning of that game was the first Lester had given up since June 18, a span of 63 2/3 innings. The outing was Lester’s sixth straight quality start against the Yankees. Overall this season, he has 15 quality starts in his 23 outings. 

This will be his first start in Arlington. He has faced the Rangers four times at Fenway, the last on June 6 when he gave up one run on two hits and two walks, striking out 11 in the complete-game win, the Sox only win against the Rangers this season. In that game he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning before Michael Young’s one-out double to center field. Lester has posted quality starts in each of his last three outings against the Rangers, going 2-0 with a 2.78 ERA (seven earned runs, 22 2/3 innings).

Millwood is making his 23rd start of the season. He is pitching on an extra days’ rest, his last start being Saturday, a 3-2 loss to the Angels in Anaheim. Millwood got a no-decision in that game, allowing two runs on nine hits and a walk, with five strikeouts in six innings. It was Millwood’s first appearance in almost two weeks because of tightness in his left glute muscle. 

Millwood has held opponents to three or fewer runs in 10 of his last 13 starts. He has pitched at least six innings in 19 of his 22 starts this season, and has gone at least seven innings 12 times. With 14 quality starts, he leads the Rangers’ staff and has surpassed his 2008 total of 11. The Rangers are 9-2 in his 11 home starts, and have won five straight. He has faced the Sox twice the season, posting a record of 2-0 with a 1.38 EREA (two earned runs, 13 innings). In 14 career starts against the Sox, he is 6-4, 3.99 (38 earned runs, 85 2/3 innings).

Stat Sheet

Red Sox
Before Thursday’s 2-0 loss to the Tigers, the Sox had two or more home runs in three straight games and in nine of their last 12.

Entering Thursday’s game, the Sox were hitting .258 since the All-Star break, 10th in the AL in that span. Overall, the Sox were third in the AL with a .349 on-base percentage, fifth with a .442 slugging percentage and eighth with a .264 average.

Entering Thursday’s game, Sox relievers led the AL with a 3.47 ERA (130 earned runs, 337 1/3 innings). The ‘pen had allowed multiple runs in eight of their last 10 games, with a 5.92 ERA (25 earned runs, 38 innings) in that stretch. It had surrendered homers in seven of the last nine games (10 total) after no homers in its previous 15 outings since the All-Star break.

Sox starters' combined 4.52 ERA is seventh in the AL. They lead the league with 568 strikeouts and 48 wins, entering Thursday’s games. Overall, Sox pitchers have combined for 870 strikeouts, second in the AL and have given up an AL-low 106 homers.

Before Thursday’s game, Mike Lowell, who was 0-for-4 in that game, was hitting .393 (24-for-61) with 18 RBIs in 18 games since coming off the disabled list July 17. His .393 mark led the team and was second among AL batters in that span (minimum 60 plate appearances), trailing the Angels’ Howie Kendrick (.414, 24-for-58).

Jacoby Ellsbury is second in the majors with 52 stolen bases, trailing only Tampa Bay’s Carl Crawford (53). He stole his 52nd base Tuesday against the Tigers, tying Tris Speaker for the second highest single-season total in Sox history, behind only Tommy Harper (54, 1973).

Kevin Youkilis will serve the third game of his five-game suspension Friday.

Victor Martinez stole his first base of the season, second of his career, in the first inning Thursday. His last stolen bases came July 24, 2003, while with the Indians, also against Detroit.

Of Josh Reddick’s six hits, five are for extra bases: four doubles and a home run.

Chris Woodward was hit by a pitch twice Thursday by Verlander. He had not been hit by a pitch since Aug. 18, 2006, by Colorado’s Byung-Hyun Kim, while with the Mets.

Lester leads the staff with six pickoffs.

Jason Bay leads the team with 10 outfield assists.

Jason Varitek needs one RBI for 700 in his career.

Entering Thursday’s game, Dustin Pedroia was second in the AL in runs scored (84), sixth in doubles (33), seventh in batting with runners in scoring position (.343), and fourth in grounding into double plays (17).

Bay was first in walks (74) and fourth in RBIs (81).

Youkilis was second in on-base percentage (.424), fourth in slugging percentage  (.564), sixth in batting with runners in scoring position (.347), and tied for fourth in being hit by a pitch (10). 

Ellsbury was sixth in multi-hit games (41).

Lowell was third in grounding into double plays (18).

Entering Thursday’s game, Lester was second in the AL in strikeouts per nine innings (10.1).

Jonathan Papelbon was fourth in the AL in saves (28) and second in games finished (42).

Josh Beckett was first in wins (14), third in opponents average (.227), and fourth in winning percentage (.778).

Rangers
The Rangers are 37-21 (.638) at home this season. They are 13-7 in series openers at home.

The Rangers have won five of their last seven games. They are 16-10 since the All-Star break.

Entering Thursday’s game, the Rangers’ 3.48 team ERA (86 earned runs, 222 2/3 innings) is the lowest in the AL and second lowest in the majors. The Rangers lead the AL with eight shutouts this season, matching their total of 2008. Their 360 walks are second-best in the AL, with a major league-low seven intentional walks.

Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia has caught 21.8 percent of attempted basestealers (17-for-78). Taylor Teagarden has caught 38.9 percent (7-for-18).

The Rangers have used 40 players this season, 22 pitchers and 18 position players, with five players making their major league debuts.

Tommy Hunter has the lowest ERA in the AL since June 28, at 1.97 (11 earned runs, 50 1/3 innings).

Entering Thursday’s game Marlon Byrd fifth in the AL in doubles (33).

Nelson Cruz was seventh in home runs (25).

Michael Young was sixth in hits (140), fourth in home batting average (.351), and sixth in total bases (232).

Entering Thursday’s game, Millwood was eighth in the AL in ERA (3.38), fourth in home ERA (2.53) and tied for fourth in hit batters (7).

Black & Blue

Red Sox
Right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 20 with a mild right shoulder strain.  He threw a 40-pitch bullpen session Tuesday, and is expected to throw another session Friday, increasing his pitch count and incorporating all his pitches.

Right-hander Tim Wakefield was placed on the 15-day DL retroactive to July 18 with a lower back strain. He is expected to make a rehab start for Pawtucket on Saturday.

First baseman/outfielder Jeff Bailey was placed on the 15-day DL retroactive to July 5 with a left ankle sprain. He began a rehab assignment with the PawSox Aug. 3.

Catcher George Kottaras is on the 15-day DL with a lower back strain. He is expected to catch Wakefield in Pawtucket on Saturday.

Outfielder Rocco Baldelli was placed  on the 15-day DL Aug. 6 with a left ankle contusion.

Shortstop Jed Lowrie was placed on the 15-day DL retroactive to Aug. 7 with ulnar neuritis of the left wrist. He is expected to be examined Friday in Arizona by the doctor who operated on the wrist earlier this season.

Rangers
Pitcher Joaquin Benoit was placed on the 60-day DL April 5 after right shoulder surgery.

Pitcher Jason Grilli was placed on the 15-day DL Aug. 2 with right elbow inflammation.

Pitcher Matt Harrison was placed on the 60-day DL June 24 with left shoulder inflammation.

Pitcher Eric Hurley was placed on the 60-day DL April 5 after right shoulder surgery.

Second baseman Ian Kinsler was placed on the 15-day DL July 29 with a strained left hamstring.

Pitcher Brandon McCarthy was placed on the 60-day DL June 5 with a stress fracture in his right shoulder blade.

This Day in Red Sox History

In 1922 Lizzie Murphy plays first base for two innings in an exhibition game at Fenway Park. She is the first woman to play against a major league team.

Overheard

“I think it’s exciting. I think we look forward to this series. This will be fun. Last time we went down there we didn’t do a very good job. I think we’ll get packed up and be excited to play. I’m sure they’re feeling pretty excited about where they are. This’ll be a fun series.”
–Red Sox manager Terry Francona on the three-game series against the Rangers

Press Box

Red Sox
The Sox couldn’t sweep the Tigers.

Victor Martinez is fitting in well with his new team.

Clay Buchholz has drawn some tough match-ups recently.

Rangers

The Rangers tuned up for the Sox by beating the Indians.

The Rangers are ready for the Red Sox.

Josh Hamilton
is returning to form.

MLB
Bronson Arroyo admitted using a now-banned supplement.

Baseball and softball are out of the Olympics.

Despite being 26th in the AL in team ERA, the Angels lead the West.

Outlook

Jon Lester is the only Sox pitcher who’s recorded a win against the Rangers in six team attempts this season. The Sox will need  Lester and the dominance he has strung together this season to gain a quick lead in the series in Texas, where the Sox were unable to post a win in their three-game set earlier this season. After two strong outings by Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz, the bullpen should be relatively rested, compared to the workload it put in last week. Dustin Pedroia got a rare day off Thursday, but expect the lineup’s sparkplug to be back at second base and batting second Friday.

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