Things don’t get any easier for the Sox on Monday as they begin a three-game series with the Texas Rangers at Fenway Park. The Rangers, at 63-44, are tied with the New York Yankees for the American League’s best record going into Monday.
After the series with Texas, Boston will have a 10-game road trip, beginning with a four-game series in Cleveland. The Indians have lost nine in a row and could be just what the Red Sox need to get back on track.
Aaron Cook will get the ball in Monday’s series opener against the Rangers and will look to rebound from a string of tough outings. After going 2-1 with a 1.67 ERA in his first four starts since joining the rotation June 24, Cook has fallen back to earth over his last three starts, going 0-3 and surrendering at least five runs in each outing.
Cook’s last start came Wednesday against the Tigers. He lasted just 4 2/3 innings, surrendering six runs on nine hits, including back-to-back home runs by Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Cook will be opposed Monday by Japanese rookie Yu Darvish (11-7, 4.38 ERA), who hasn’t fared much better recently, going 1-2 with a 7.66 ERA over his last four starts.
Game 2 features Jon Lester against Ryan Dempster, whom the Rangers picked up from the Chicago Cubs at the trade deadline. Lester looked like he may have turned things around last time out, delivering an eight-inning, three-run performance against the Twins on Thursday, but he’ll be tested by a Rangers offense that leads all of baseball in runs scored. Dempster was roughed up in his Rangers debut against the Angels on Thursday, allowing eight runs in 4 2/3 innings in a performance that raised his ERA by over half a run, to 2.82.
Josh Beckett faces Matt Harrison in the series finale Wednesday. Beckett left Tuesday’s game against the Tigers in the third inning with back spasms, and manager Bobby Valentine scratched him from his next start against Minnesota on Sunday, with Franklin Morales performing spot start duty. Beckett should be ready to go by Wednesday, however.
Beckett lost his last full outing — also against the Rangers, on July 25 — surrendering four runs over seven innings. His opponent, Harrison, has enjoyed a fine season to this point, posting a 13-6 record and a 3.17 ERA. He was effective in his last start against the Kansas City Royals on Friday, allowing two runs over 6 2/3 innings in a Rangers victory.
Craig Breslow has proven to be an inspired addition to the Red Sox bullpen, holding opponents scoreless in 3 1/3 innings over four appearances last week. He thrived in a couple of different roles, as Valentine employed him twice as a situational lefty, getting one out each on Saturday and Sunday, and twice as a traditional reliever, getting four outs on Wednesday and Friday.
Mark Melancon was also effective in three appearances last week, pitching 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief. One reliever who will be happy to see the week end, however, is Alfredo Aceves, who allowed six runs in 3 2/3 innings, including a blown save in a loss to the Twins on Saturday. Aceves entered the ninth with a two-run lead but allowed an RBI single to Jamey Carroll before Joe Mauer delivered the killing blow — a two-out, three-run home run that sent the game into extra innings.
Aceves did pick up his 23rd save of the season in Sunday’s victory, though, retiring all three batters he faced. He will need to carry over that momentum against the Rangers this week.
So, who will be this week’s Amica Pitcher of the Week?