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Red Sox-Twins series preview

05.06.13 at 10:54 am ET
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Fenway Park will be a welcome sight for the Red Sox after they were swept by the Rangers over the weekend, their first three-game losing streak of the young season. Despite going 2-4 on the road trip, the Sox still come back to the friendly confines of Fenway tied with the Cardinals and Rangers for the best record in baseball at 20-11, and maintain a 1½-game lead over the Yankees and Orioles in the AL East.

The Sox will host the Twins for a four-game set starting on Monday. It will be the first and only trip the Twins will make to Boston this year, though the club might be happy to be anywhere but Minnesota. The Twins come into the series with a 13-14 record, having played only 27 games thanks to four postponed games that could be classified as snowouts rather than rainouts.

Boston is the last stop on the Twins’€™ 10-game road trip, on which Minnesota is 2-4. The Twins have dropped their last two series, losing the first two games against both the Tigers and Indians but salvaging the final game of both sets.

“No one wants to get swept, and unfortunately for us, we’ve put ourselves in these situations where we have to win the last game to get a game out of the series,” manager Ron Gardenhire said after Sunday’s 4-2 victory over the Indians. “But we’d like to start getting some of the early wins and start winning series.”

The Red Sox will look to keep that from happening, and not only to redeem themselves after the sweep in Texas but also to erase the memories of Minnesota’€™s last visit to Fenway Park in August 2012, when the Twins took three of four from the then-scuffling Sox.

Here are the pitching matchups for the four-game set.

Monday: Vance Worley (0-4, 7.22) vs. Clay Buchholz (6-0, 1.01)

Worley was acquired by Minnesota in the deal that sent center fielder Ben Revere to Philadelphia, and he went from being the No. 5 guy in a veteran Phillies rotation to becoming the ace of the Twins staff, making the Opening Day start. He hasn’€™t pitched like an ace so far, however. In six starts, Worley has come out on the losing end of all of his decisions, heading into Monday with an 0-4 record and a 7.22 ERA. Worley’€™s been hit hard, allowing an average of 14.4 hits per nine innings, and his WHIP sits at 1.919. In his last start, he was knocked around by the Tigers, going 4 2/3 innings while allowing six runs on 10 hits, including three home runs.

Buchholz, one the other hand, has been nothing short of dominant, and he has an American League Pitcher of the Month award to prove it. He owns the lowest ERA in the majors at 1.01, and was the first to six wins (and still the only one with more than five victories). Buchholz’€™ last start was another gem — seven innings of two-hit ball against the Blue Jays on Wednesday. But the outing brought some controversy as well, as Toronto analyst Dick Hayhurst and commentator Jack Morris accused Buchholz of doctoring the baseball with an illegal substance. Buchholz (along with his teammates and manager) denied the claims, saying, “I’m doing the same thing right now as I did in 2008, when I was sent down to Double-A. But I guess something’s got to be wrong, right?”

Tuesday: Scott Diamond (2-2, 3.97) vs. Ryan Dempster (2-2, 3.00)

It’€™ll be a battle of the Canadians on Tuesday night as British Columbia native Dempster takes on Ontario-born Diamond in the second game of the series. Diamond has been one of the more solid starters in the Twins rotation, bringing a 2-2 record and an ERA just south of four into this series. The 26-year-old earned his second win of the season in his last outing, taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning but eventually giving up two runs on four hits with a walk and three strikeouts.

Dempster heads into the game with an even 3.00 ERA and a 2-2 record, earning his second win of 2013 last time out against the Blue Jays, giving up a run on four hits in six innings. The 36-year-old (who celebrated his birthday on Friday) only struck out four batters on Thursday night, his lowest total of the season. Dempster’€™s been a strikeout machine so far this year; entering play on Sunday, he and Buchholz were fifth in the American League, both with 47 strikeouts on the season. Dempster fanned 43 batters last month, good for the highest total of his career for April.

Wednesday: Pedro Hernandez (1-0, 3.92) vs. Felix Doubront (3-1, 5.67)

Red Sox fans may remember Hernandez’€™ major league debut last year for the White Sox, in which he gave up 12 hits and eight runs to the Red Sox in July at Fenway Park, including two three-run home runs to Cody Ross, in a 10-1 Red Sox win. That was Hernandez’€™ only major league experience prior to 2013, and things have been going a little better since. The 24-year-old has made five appearances for the Twins this year, three of them starts. He’€™s coming off a subpar outing against the Indians, allowing five earned runs on eight hits and four walks in 5 1/3 innings.

Doubront will take the hill for the Red Sox, coming off one of the worst starts of his career in which he allowed six runs on a career-high 12 hits, failing to make it out of the fourth inning against Texas on Friday night. The start, which ballooned his ERA to 5.67, was a step backward for Doubront, who had pitched into the seventh inning in his previous two outings.  The lefty still heads into the game with a 3-1 record, thanks in part to the fact that the Red Sox usually back him with tons of run support; even though the Sox were shut out in his last start, they still average 6.28 runs behind Doubront.

Thursday: Kevin Correia (3-2, 2.83) vs. John Lackey (1-2, 3.52)

Correia probably has been the Twins’€™ most consistent member of the rotation. The 32-year-old has been able to go deep into games for Minnesota; his last start was the only outing in which he failed to complete seven innings, allowing four runs and six hits in five innings to the Indians.

He’€™ll be matched up against Lackey, who will make his fourth start of 2013. Lackey has faced the Twins 15 times in his career, and owns a 7-5 record and 3.68 ERA against them. The right-hander is coming off his second loss and third decision of the season, giving up three runs on six hits to the Rangers in Game 2 of the series, a 5-1 Sox loss.

Who’€™s hot: Twins

‘€¢ The Twins have the best bullpen ERA in the American League at 2.56, and closer Glen Perkins earned his seventh save of the season in as many opportunities against the Indians on Sunday. The combination of Josh Roenicke, set-up man Jared Burton and Perkins has worked well for Minnesota. Roenicke and Burton both own sub-1.50 ERAs.

‘€¢ Justin Morneau may only be hitting .252 on the season, but he’€™s been one of Minnesota’€™s more consistent hitters. Morneau leads the team in RBIs with 15, and is one of the few regulars hitting above .250.

‘€¢ Josh Willingham‘€™s .231 batting average may be kind of ugly, but the outfielder is getting on base at a .400 clip.  His five home runs are good for the team lead in the category, though his last longball was back on April 29.

Who’€™s hot: Red Sox

‘€¢ It’€™s been 15 days since Andrew Miller walked two and allowed two hits to give the Royals the extra-inning victory at Fenway and 14 days since he came into the clubhouse without his signature flowing brown locks. The new look may be working for Miller, who has gone six scoreless outings since then, allowing three hits and, perhaps more importantly, only one walk while striking out six.

‘€¢ When the Red Sox signed catcher David Ross in the offseason, they were mainly focused on his defense and veteran presence behind the dish. They didn’€™t expect their backup backstop to be as impressive with the bat as he has been over his past few starts. Ross drew two walks and clobbered his fourth home run of 2013 on Sunday afternoon, bumping his average up to .243 in 12 games.

‘€¢ David Ortiz continues to hit at a torrid pace, extending his hitting streak to 25 games (and about 10 months). The 37-year-old is hitting .440 and owns a ridiculous 1.313 OPS. Ortiz scored two and drove in two of the four Red Sox runs during the three-game series in Texas.

Who’€™s not: Twins

‘€¢ Joe Mauer got off to a hot start, hitting .375 over his first 15 games, including back-to-back four-hit games against the Angels. But the catcher has cooled down considerably as of late, going 4-for-his-last-34, driving in his first run in nine games on Sunday afternoon. Despite the recent slide, Mauer is still batting .286 with a .364 OBP. “I don’€™t feel terrible at the plate, I just don’€™t feel like I did in those four-hit games,” Mauer said after a 1-for-4 day on Saturday.

‘€¢ Rookie Aaron Hicks, who impressed in spring training and earned himself a starting job in the Twins outfield despite not playing a day in Triple-A, has struggled to replicate his spring numbers. The 23-year-old is batting .123/.242/.198 with nine RBIs through 24 games, managing only 10 hits in his 81 at-bats (though he did hit his first major league home run in Minnesota’€™s last series).

‘€¢ As a whole, the Twins have a pretty anemic offense. The lineup sits in the bottom third of most offensive categories, including batting average, OPS and runs, with the fewest hits in the majors at 216. To their credit, the Twins also rank toward the bottom of the list in strikeouts with 210, 100 less than the league-leading Astros.

Who’€™s not: Red Sox

‘€¢ Like the Twins, the Red Sox bats have been inadequate, but the offensive woes extend only to Boston’s last series. The Sox scored only four runs in their three games against Texas, getting blanked by Derek Holland and only pushing one across against Alexi Ogando. They put three on the board against Yu Darvish thanks to Ross and Ortiz, both of whom went yard against the Texas ace. But Darvish stifled the rest of the lineup, striking out 14 in seven innings. The Sox also were unable to tag the Texas bullpen for any runs throughout the series.

‘€¢ Clayton Mortensen went 1 2/3 innings on Friday night, allowing only one hit to the Rangers (who were up by seven runs at that point), but the reliever couldn’€™t stifle the powerful Texas lineup on Sunday, striking out the first two batters but allowing hits to Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre. The winning RBI from Beltre was Mortensen’€™s first earned run allowed in four outings.

‘€¢ It’€™s overcritical to deem Mike Napoli “not hot” after what he’€™s done this season, but the former Ranger did not have a good series in his Texas return. Napoli punched out four times and mustered only one hit against the Rangers without driving in a run.

Read More: Clay Buchholz, David Ortiz, mike napoli, Ryan Dempster
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