|Friday’s Red Sox-Pirates matchups: Jon Lester vs. Paul Maholm||06.24.11 at 2:36 pm ET|
Most of the talk leading into the opening game of the Red Sox’ nine-game interleague series has been centered on what the Sox will do with David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez in an attempt to keep both of their bats in the lineup.
Lost in that focus is a decent pitching matchup Friday night in Pittsburgh between left-handers Jon Lester and Paul Maholm.
Lester is 9-3 with a 3.70 ERA, and he’ll try for the second time to become the first 10-game winner in the majors. He has a 2.78 ERA in June, although he lost his last outing, a 4-2 setback vs. the Brewers in which he allowed four runs, three earned, in eight innings. All of the earned runs came courtesy of solo home runs as Lester tied a career high by allowing three round-trippers.
Maholm comes in with a 3-8 record but with a respectable 3.29 ERA. Prior to allowing four runs in 6 1/3 innings in a loss to the Indians in his last outing, Maholm had tossed shutout ball in three of his previous four outings, including a complete-game three-hit gem vs. the Cubs on May 28.
Maholm, the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2003 out of Mississippi State (where he was a teammate of Jonathan Papelbon), is pitching for his future, as he is near the end of the guaranteed part of the $14.5 million contract he signed before the 2009 season. He has a $9.75 million option for next season that the team can buy out for $750,000.
The longest-tenured player on the Pirates, Maholm had a 5.10 ERA last season. He attributes his improvement to pitching inside more frequently. His success, although not evident in his won-loss record, has helped the perennially woeful Pirates to a .500 record through 74 games — although they are just 17-19 at home.
After going 2-13 in interleague play last year, Pittsburgh is 4-5 vs. the American League and coming off consecutive victories over the Orioles. Outfielder Andrew McCutcheon went 6-for-9 with two doubles in the series with the O’s and leads the team with a .289 batting average, 10 home runs and 14 stolen bases.
The teams have met in interleague play twice before. Both times — 2005 in Boston and 2003 in Pittsburgh — the Red Sox won two out of three games.
Former National Leaguers Mike Cameron and Gonzalez are the only Red Sox players who have stood in the box against Maholm more than four times. Cameron has fared well, hitting .483 in 30 at-bats, while Gonzalez is just 1-for-9.
Former Blue Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay, with a .318 average in 22 at-bats vs. Lester, is the only Pirate with more than three plate appearances against the Sox ace.
RED SOX VS. PAUL MAHOLM
Mike Cameron (33 plate appearances): .433 BA/.485 OBP/.767 SLG, 3 home runs, 1 double, 9 RBIs, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts
Adrian Gonzalez (13): .111/.231/.222, 1 double, 2 RBIs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts
Darnell McDonald (4): .500/.500/.750, 1 double, 2 strikeouts
Marco Scutaro (4): .250/.250/.250
J.D. Drew is 2-for-3 and Jarrod Saltalamacchia is 1-for-3 vs. Maholm.
PIRATES VS. JON LESTER
Lyle Overbay (25 plate appearances): .318 BA/.400 OBP/.682 SLG, 2 home runs, 2 doubles, 7 RBIs, 6 strikeouts
In three plate appearances, Ronny Cedeno is 1-for-3 with a triple and 3 RBIs, Matt Diaz is 1-for-3, and Brandon Wood is 0-for-2 with a sacrifice bunt. Garrett Jones faced Lester once and failed to get a hit.
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