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Red Sox-Reds series preview

05.06.14 at 4:51 pm ET
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The Reds will make a rare visit to Fenway Park to take on the Red Sox as both teams look to ride some momentum and move closer to a winning record.

Over the weekend, the Red Sox came within shouting distance of sweeping the A’€™s, the team with the most wins in the American League at the time. But missed opportunities, failure to capitalize, and a bit of bad luck for the Red Sox led to a 3-2 A’s victory in 10 innings Sunday.

Despite taking two of the three games from Oakland, the Sox maintain a losing record through the first 32 games of the year at 15-17. They’ve been unable to reach the .500 mark since they were 2-2 back on April 4. Things just haven’€™t quite clicked for the Red Sox, who have lost eight one-run contests while winning just three.

“We’ve just got to execute. That’s it,” Shane Victorino told MLB.com. “Collectively, we haven’t been able to do it. Sometimes that’s part of the game.”

Things haven’€™t been going much smoother for the Reds, a team that’€™s proven to be a perennial playoff contender over the past few seasons. They’€™re off to a 15-16 start and occupy third place in the NL Central. However, the club is coming off a series victory against the NL-best Brewers, taking three of four from Milwaukee.

Injuries to key players have been an issue for Cincinnati in the early going. Closer Aroldis Chapman has yet to see game action after getting drilled in the head by a line drive in spring training. He could come off the DL as early as next week. But the Reds recently lost a big bat in their lineup for at least a month, as Jay Bruce underwent surgery on his left knee to repair a torn meniscus on Monday. Starter Tony Cingrani is sidelined with shoulder tendinitis, and catcher Devin Mesoraco is missing time with a strained hamstring. In addition, the Reds lost starter Mat Latos early on as he was diagnosed with a flexor mass strain in his elbow back in February.

The Reds and Red Sox have met in two regular-season series since the classic 1975 World Series matchup, with the Reds’€™ previous Fenway trip coming back in 2005.

Here are the matchups for the two-game series.

Tuesday: Felix Doubront (1-3, 5.70) vs. Homer Bailey (2-2, 5.50)
Wednesday: Jake Peavy (1-1, 2.87) vs. Mike Leake (2-3, 3.53)

WHO’€™S HOT: RED SOX

A.J. Pierzynski has played a lot of games at Fenway Park. He’€™s played 48 games at Fenway, in fact. And until Sunday, he went homerless through 172 plate appearances in Boston. It may have taken a while, but Pierzynski’€™s first Fenway home run came at a crucial time, knotting the score at 2-2 in the seventh inning. The 37-year-old went 4-for-8 in two games against the A’€™s, driving in a run in each contest and scoring three times. Pierzynski’€™s been one of the more consistent sources of production in the Red Sox lineup, driving in 15 runs (third on the club, behind just Mike Napoli and David Ortiz), and actually owns the highest batting average among Red Sox regulars, batting .291 with a .748 OPS.

Andrew Miller bounced back from a tough showing in the series with Toronto (he allowed two earned runs on three hits in just a third of an inning) with three consecutive dominating performances, most recently a perfect inning during Sunday’€™s loss, in which he struck out two. Most important, Miller’€™s command has been on the mark; he’€™s gone 8 2/3 innings without walking a batter and hasn’t walked multiple batters in an outing since his first of the season. Meanwhile, he’€™s striking out an average of almost 11 1/2 batters per nine innings.

Grady Sizemore‘€™s bat may be showing signs of life. The outfielder has gone 4-for-13 with two doubles, three walks and four strikeouts on the homestand while driving in two runs. Sizemore has been making some solid contact, and while he’€™s still hitting an anemic .224/.302/.376 on the season, he’€™s shown encouraging signs of heating back up again.

WHO’€™S HOT: REDS

— Catcher Brayan Pena is getting the lion’€™s share of the playing time with Mesoraco sidelined, and he’€™s making the most of it. The 32-year-old is batting .328/.371/.552 with three home runs and four doubles on the year, and has gone 8-for-19 over his last six games. Pena actually leads the Reds club in OPS (.923) and batting average while he ranks second in OBP only to the on-base machine, Joey Votto.

— Though he missed the first couple of weeks of the season recovering from the forearm surgery he underwent last season, Jonathan Broxton has done an admirable job in the closer’€™s role while filling in for Chapman. In fact, he’€™s been downright dominant. Broxton has recorded five saves and has yet to permit a run through eight appearances and eight innings of work. He’€™s allowed just three hits and four walks while striking out an average of one batter an inning.

— Third baseman Todd Frazier had a great series against the Brewers, going 6-for-15 with three doubles and a home run while driving in six. In addition, he didn’t strike out once in 18 plate appearances in the series. The 28-year-old has put together a solid 2014 campaign to this point, batting .269/.350/.491 and leading the team with 18 RBIs, nine doubles and five home runs.

WHO’S NOT: RED SOX

— After 12 straight scoreless outings to begin his Red Sox career, Chris Capuano finally gave up a run. Not only did he give up a run, but he allowed three of them (though only two were earned) to the A’s on Saturday without recording an out. Capuano then received the loss in the series finale, allowing a double and two walks (one intentional) after recording the first two outs of the 10th inning. He left with the bases loaded, and the winning run scored on a little dribbler to third base off the bat of Yoenis Cespedes. Despite the two rough outings, Capuano still sports a 1.72 ERA and is striking out almost a batter per inning.

Will Middlebrooks‘€™ bat hasn’€™t been quite as hot since leaving Toronto. He’€™s gone just 4-for-19 with one extra-base hit on the homestand, and has driven in one run. One positive to take away, however, is the fact that Middlebrooks is drawing a lot of walks. Though the sample size is small, the third baseman is walking more than 11 percent of the time, which is remarkably higher than his 5.3 percent mark in 2013.

— Though he’€™s still driving in runs, Ortiz hasn’t been getting a ton of hits lately. He hasn’t had a multi-hit game since April 20, and he’€™s batting just .220 over his last 12 contests. Though the hits aren’t so frequent, five of his nine hits of the past 12 games have gone for extra bases. Ortiz is still tied with Napoli for the team lead in RBIs and is second on the club in OPS (.790), but he may be going through a mini-slump of sorts, with five hits in 25 at-bats during the homestand.

WHO’S NOT: REDS

— Votto is having a very solid season, hitting .275/.429/.459 and leading the National League in walks with 27 (while striking out just 24 times), but he’s been dealing with a small slump lately, at 5-for-28 (although four of those five hits have been doubles). The first baseman has just five extra-base hits (all doubles) over his last 16 games, and has driven in just one run over that span.

— Bailey isn’t off to the kind of start the Reds had hoped for after inking him to a six-year, $105 million extension in the offseason. The 28-year-old has gotten hit pretty hard, especially in his last couple of outings. Bailey has allowed eight earned runs on 17 hits over his last 14 innings of work, and has struck out just four in back-to-back starts. He’s been burned by the long ball as well, permitting seven home runs over his first six starts. He comes into the series with a 5.50 ERA and 1.631 WHIP through 34 1/3 innings.

— Chris Heisey may be seeing more playing time with Bruce sidelined, but his offensive performance as of late won’€™t be an adequate replacement in the lineup. Heisey has hit just .192 with a .492 OPS over his last 30 plate appearances, and is without an extra-base hit since April 16. He’s batting .254/.313/.339 on the year.

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