Wild-Card Lead on the Line as Red Sox Face Rangers

Wild-Card Lead on the Line as Red Sox Face Rangers The Red Sox don't have the magic every night. On Saturday night, they threatened in innings seven and eight to put a dent in the Rangers' 7-2 lead, but it wasn't meant to be.

Friday night's Victor Martinez-sparked comeback effort was an unforgettable one, but lightning wasn't about to strike twice — not for these Red Sox. Now the Sox take on the Rangers in the final game a three-game set, and first place in the American League wild card race hangs in the balance. No pressure or anything.

When & Where

2:05 p.m., August 16, 2009
Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Arlington, Texas

Records

Red Sox (66-50, 2nd place in AL East)
Rangers (65-50, 2nd place in AL West)

Skinny

It's been many, many years since the Rangers played a game in August with serious playoff implications. But that's what they're doing today — the winner of this showdown in Arlington takes the three-game series victory and the lead in the AL wild card race. There's a lot at stake, and the Rangers — who sit an even 6-6 in their last 12 games — would love to get this win to prove they can hang with true contenders. This game will be a test for both teams — the upstart Rangers and the inconsistent Red Sox.

Starting Lineups

Red Sox Rangers
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF Julio Borbon, LF
Dustin Pedroia, 2B Michael Young, 3B
Victor Martinez, C David Murphy, DH
Jason Bay, LF Marlon Byrd, CF
David Ortiz, DH Josh Hamilton, RF
Mike Lowell, 3B Ian Kinsler, 2B
Casey Kotchman, 1B Hank Blalock, 3B
Brian Anderson, RF Taylor Teagarden, C
Alex Gonzalez, SS Elvis Andrus, SS

Pitching Matchup

RHP Junichi Tazawa (1-1, 4.05 ERA) vs. RHP Dustin Nippert (3-1, 3.62 ERA)

Tazawa showed remarkable poise in his first career start, a 7-5 Red Sox win over the Tigers on Tuesday night. He was thrown into the 14th inning of a 0-0 game in Yankee Stadium his major league debut last week, and skeptics wondered if he'd be able to bounce back in a starting role four days later. But the Japanese rookie answered his critics resoundingly: He allowed just one earned run in five innings, striking out six.

In his second season with the Rangers, the young righty Nippert has reinvented himself. The home runs are gone (10 last season, two this season), and to a lesser extent, so are the walks (from 37 down to 12). Nippert has found his command at age 28. Figuring out the American League is never a walk in the park, but this guy seems to have put it together.

Stat Sheet

Red Sox
The Red Sox are 19-17 in day games this season.

The Sox lead the American League with 483 walks.

Junichi Tazawa has struck out eight batters and walked two this season.

Alex González had a batting line of .210/.258/.296 in 68 games with the Cincinnati Reds this season.

Jason Bay has 82 RBIs, fourth in the AL.

Dustin Pedroia
has 135 hits, ninth in the AL.

Casey Kotchman is 4-for-20 (.200) since joining the Red Sox. He has one home run and three RBIs.

Victor Martinez has an .809 OPS with the Red Sox. He has already homered twice.

Jacoby Ellsbury has succeeded in six consecutive stolen base attempts. He was last caught on July 30 against Oakland.

Mike Lowell
has seven home runs and six doubles in his 35 games against Texas.

Jason Varitek has a career on-base percentage of .338 against the Rangers.

David Ortiz has a .995 OPS against Texas. He has homered 22 times in 323 at-bats.

Rangers
The Rangers are 15-11 in games decided by one run this season.

Texas is second in the American League with 173 home runs.

Dustin Nippert has faced the Red Sox four times, but only once as a starter. He has a 6.92 ERA, a 2.08 WHIP and a .339 opponents' batting average in 13 innings against Boston.

Michael Young is hitting .349 at home this season.

Nelson Cruz
has 25 home runs, tied for sixth in the AL.

Ian Kinsler
has stolen 22 bases, ninth in the AL.

David Murphy
is a .314 career hitter against the Red Sox, his former team. He has four extra-base hits in 35 at-bats.

Josh Hamilton has an .810 career OPS against Boston. He has six extra-base hits in 13 games.

Black & Blue

Red Sox
Rocco Baldelli
, on the 15-day DL with a left ankle contusion, is eligible to return on Friday.

J.D. Drew is out for the remainder of the Rangers series with a sore groin.

Daisuke Matsuzaka
, on the 60-day DL since June 20 with a mild right shoulder sprain, will throw a bullpen session on Monday.

Rangers
Jarrod Saltalamacchia
has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with numbness in his right arm.

Nelson Cruz was placed on the 15-day DL on August 4 with a sprained left ankle.

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

This Day in Red Sox History

In 2001, the Red Sox fired Jimy Williams midseason after almost five years as the team's manager. General manager Dan Duquette replaced Williams with Joe Kerrigan, the team's former pitching coach, who proceeded to lose 27 of the team's final 43 games in 2001. The Red Sox missed the playoffs.

Overheard

"Hitting like [expletive]. That's why."
–David Ortiz, in Saturday's Boston Herald, on why he was demoted to the No. 7 spot in the Red Sox' batting order

Press Box

Red Sox
Alex Gonzalez
is happy to be back.

Is Papi slipping again?

Chris Woodward is being cut loose.

Rangers
The Rangers ran wild on Saturday.

Ian Kinsler was back  in the lineup.

Salty goes on the DL.

MLB
What will happen with Stephen Strasburg?

A-Rod is back.

David Wright is hurting.

Outlook

For two young pitchers not used to facing pressure situations in the big leagues, Sunday's start is a big one. Tazawa is making just his second career start, and Nippert, 28, has never been a regular starter in the thick of a pennant race like this one. This game is bound to be a little unpredictable — it all depends on what the young hurlers bring to the table for each side. But both teams will come out fired up — with the lead in the AL wild card race up for grabs, you couldn't expect anything less.

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