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Red Sox-White Sox series preview

05.20.13 at 10:58 am ET
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The Red Sox will make their first (and only) trip of the season to Chicago to take on the White Sox for a three-game set beginning Monday night. The Red Sox begin the day with a 27-17 record, a half-game behind the Yankees, who were rained out on Sunday.

Apparently, all it took to get the Red Sox back on track was a little road trip. After a disappointing homestand in which they went 2-5, the Sox dropped the first game of the trip to the Rays but took the last two games of that series and moved on to sweep the Twins in a three-game set. The most recent five-game winning streak is the third time the 2013 Sox have won five or more in a row, with their longest streak (seven) coming in mid-April.

The White Sox are off to a frustrating start after finishing second in the American League Central a year ago. Chicago comes into the series with a 19-23 record, percentage points ahead of the last-place Twins. The good news for the White Sox is that the race for the division lead is a tight one. Despite being close to the cellar, they’€™re only six games behind Terry Francona‘€™s Indians, who sit in first with a 25-17 record. The White Sox are opening an eight-game homestand after going 4-3 on a road trip.

It’€™s fair to say that the White Sox offense has been a big part of why the team hasn’€™t gotten off to a great start. The lineup ranks third from the bottom in OPS, tied for third worst in runs scored, and 26th in batting average amongst all major league clubs. But slugger Adam Dunn anticipates that better fortune is on the horizon. “We are pretty close to getting really hot,” Dunn said after the Sunday’€™s 6-2 loss to the Angels. ‘€œ”We swung the bats pretty well, excluding [Sunday].’€ He did note, however, that the club would need to put runs on the board with Boston in town.

Here are the pitching matchups for the three-game series.

Monday: Jon Lester (6-0, 2.72) vs. Dylan Axelrod (1-3, 4.27)
Tuesday: Felix Doubront (3-1, 6.03) vs. Jose Quintana (2-1, 3.97)
Wednesday: Clay Buchholz (6-0, 1.78) vs. Chris Sale (5-2,  2.53)

WHO’S HOT: RED SOX

‘€¢ The Red Sox bullpen has been fairing pretty well without the team’s two closers, Joel Hanrahan (flexor tendon and Tommy John surgery) and Andrew Bailey (biceps inflammation). During the first six games of the road trip, Red Sox relievers have allowed only one run over the course of 20 innings, good for a 0.45 ERA.

‘€¢ David Ortiz has gotten back on track after having a quiet homestand. The designated hitter is in the midst of a seven-game hitting streak, batting .429 over the course of those games while driving in 12 runs. Ortiz had a huge game on Saturday night, driving in half of Boston’€™s 12 runs and knocking two home runs, notching his 40th multi-home run game and passing Ted Williams for the most in Red Sox history.

WHO’S HOT: WHITE SOX

‘€¢ Much like in 2012, Alex Rios is one of the most consistent hitters in the White Sox lineup. The outfielder is hitting .301 on the season and riding a 14-game hitting streak, batting .386 over that span. Rios has shown some power early as well, clubbing 10 home runs, one triple and nine doubles in 42 games. Rios leads the team in batting average (among qualifiers), OPS and RBI.

‘€¢ Lleft fielder Dayan Viciedo, a 24-year-old in his second year playing full-time for Chicago, also is off to an impressive start. Viciedo saw his average fall to .288 after an 0-for-4 day on Sunday, but he still owns a 344 OBP with four home runs. Viciedo isn’€™t the only young White Sox to be making an impact; third baseman Conor Gillaspie is enjoying his first season with Chicago, batting .283 with a .349 OBP. The 25-year-old also has 10 extra-base hits on the season, including three home runs.

WHO’S NOT: RED SOX

‘€¢ Utility infielder Pedro Ciriaco has been struggling, both on defense and with the bat. Ciriaco has expanded his versatility and is capable of playing most infield and outfield positions (though third base, shortstop and second base are the positions he’€™s most experienced playing), but he’€™s already made six errors in 103 innings. The 27-year-old made only nine errors in over 500 innings last season. Ciriaco’€™s bat hasn’€™t gotten going yet, either, as he’€™s batting .184 after an 0-for-4 day Sunday, starting in place of the injured Stephen Drew.

‘€¢ Though John Lackey had an excellent start on Sunday (no earned runs through six innings while allowing only one hit), the back end of the rotation has been inconsistent as of late. While Lester and Buchholz have continued to be effective in almost every outing, Ryan Dempster, Doubront and Lackey have been hot and cold. The No. 3, 4 and 5 starters have a collective 5.80 ERA in the month of May over their last 59 innings.

WHO’S NOT: WHITE SOX

‘€¢ The White Sox were relatively quiet in the offseason, but one of their only acquisitions, infielder Jeff Keppinger, has been very disappointing. Keppinger is batting only .197, even after a 2-for-3 day on Sunday. Even more frustrating is that fact that Keppinger, who boasted a .367 OBP for the Rays in 2012, is only getting on base at a .205 clip this season, taking only his second walk of the year on Sunday. Add in a meager .218 slugging percentage, and Keppinger’€™s OPS is .423 in 36, the lowest among qualifiers.

‘€¢ First baseman/designated hitter Paul Konerko is having a rough beginning to 2013, coming into the game batting .224/.280/.340. The 37-year-old had been heating up, going 6-for-17 on Chicago’€™s homestand, but went hitless on Sunday afternoon. Konerko does have four home runs and five doubles, but the power stroke has eluded him lately. He hasn’€™t hit a home run since April 28 or a double since May 4. The longtime White Sox first baseman is adjusting to splitting time between playing in the field and DHing, serving as the designated hitter in about half of his games this season.

Read More: Alex Rios, dayan viciedo, john lackey,
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