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Red Sox-Indians series preview: Can Sox tame scorching Indians lineup?

06.12.14 at 4:25 pm ET
By
Lonnie Chisenhall

Lonnie Chisenhall

The Red Sox will try to right the ship at home against the Indians in a four-game series after a road trip they’d like to soon forget.

The streaking Sox were coming off of a sweep of the Rays as they headed to Cleveland back in the beginning of the month. They’€™d go on to lose five straight, and come home after going just 2-7 on the trip.

The Red Sox offense has looked lost as of late, managing just one run in the three games against the Orioles, though that run would prove to be enough to secure a win in the series thanks to stellar performances from starter Brandon Workman and the bullpen on Tuesday.

“Well, one run in 27 innings is extremely difficult,”  manager John Farrell said on Wednesday night. “You credit their pitching. You credit inning-ending double plays three times tonight. We had big opportunities [Tuesday] that we left a number of men on base, particularly in the early innings. We’ve got to do a better job offensively all the way around.”

It’s the first time since 1993 that the Red Sox scored one run or less in a three-game span.

With the loss, the Red Sox sit nine games back in the division with a 29-36 record.

On the other hand, the Indians (as well as the Twins, Royals, and White Sox) have helped to make it a tight race in the AL Central. Once 10 1/2 games behind the Tigers, the Indians have closed the gap and pulled within 2 1/2 of the division lead thanks to a 9-3 record over their last 12 games, though they dropped their last two contests in Kansas City. The Indians pulled above .500 briefly earlier in the week, but have slipped back to 33-33.

While the Indians pitching has yet to totally come around, their offense has been clicking, with the club scoring more runs than any other team in the majors this month.

It hasn’€™t been very long since these two teams met, with the Indians ending the Sox’€™ seven-game winning streak and sweeping them in three games last week.

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

Thursday: Jon Lester (6-7, 3.52) vs. Josh Tomlin (4-2, 3.12)
Friday: John Lackey (7-4, 3.18) vs. Justin Masterson (4-4, 4.61)
Saturday: Jake Peavy (1-4, 4.76) vs. T.J. House (0-1, 5.24)
Sunday: Brandon Workman (1-0, 2.86) vs. Corey Kluber (6-4, 3.35)

WHO’S HOT: RED SOX

– Though his 10-game hitting streak was snapped on Wednesday (on his birthday, of all days), Brock Holt continues to be a spark plug atop the Red Sox lineup. Over his last 11 games, Holt is batting .380 with four doubles, a triple and a home run to his credit, bringing his line through 31 games this season to .331/.370/.457. Furthermore, Holt has answered the call at every position the Red Sox have tried him at, adding left field to his resume most recently.

– He hasn’t been getting as many save opportunities as he did a year ago, but when he gets into the game, Koji Uehara has been as dominant as ever. He’s racked up 13 saves in as many opportunities, allowing just two runs in his 27 2/3 innings of work. Uehara has allowed just one hit over his last six innings.

– The streaky A.J. PIerzynski might be on the upswing after going 2-for-15 through the first five games of the road trip. The catcher was one of the few members of the Red Sox lineup able to generate any offense of off Orioles pitching, going 3-for-7 in the series.

WHO’S HOT: INDIANS

– Lonnie Chisenhall had a career day at the plate on Monday, clubbing five hits (three of those being home runs) and driving in nine runs. He’s just the fourth player since 1920 to have five hits, three home runs and nine RBIs in a game. While the night was historic for Chisenhall, it wasn’t particularly shocking given the way he’s been playing all season; that was actually his second five-hit performance of the season. If he had enough at-bats to count as a qualifier (he’s a few away at 168 currently), Chisenhall would easily lead the majors in batting average with a .393 mark.  The infielder currently owns a nine-game hit streak, a stretch over which he’s batting .531 with a .969 slugging mark.

– Michael Brantley has continued to swing a hot bat since going 4-for-12 against the Red Sox earlier this month. The outfielder is hitting .350 in 10 games in June with a home run and three doubles. Brantley’s performance this season (he’s hitting .310/.379/.500 through 64 games) has garnered him plenty of attention, and he’s making a bid to land a spot on the All-Star team.

– Former Red Sox outfielder David Murphy is making an impact in his first year with Cleveland. The 32-year-old has put together a fine season thus far, hitting .284/.342/.436, seeing regular playing time in the Indians’ outfield. Lately he’s been on a tear, hitting .361 with four doubles in 10 games this month.

WHO’S NOT: RED SOX

– A major reason why the Red Sox offense is scuffling? The big three aren’t performing. That starts with Xander Bogaerts. The 21-year-old cooled off over the road trip. After homering in back-to-back contests in Cleveland, Bogaerts had just three more hits over the last seven games of the trip, and is in the midst of an 0-for-16 slump.

– The Red Sox lineup isn’t as deep as it once was, meaning the club really needs its big guns firing on all cylinders. But one of the few major threats in the lineup, Dustin Pedroia, just hasn’t been getting the job done lately. Though he mixed in a couple of multi-hit games over the course of the road trip and finished with a 2-for-3 night in Baltimore on Wednesday, Pedroia is hitting .265 with a .325 OBP over his last 40 plate appearances, numbers that are lower than normal for the Sox second baseman. Plus, the power has been missing for Pedroia, who has just two extra-base hits in his last 13 games.

– That leaves David Ortiz. The slugger mixed in some well-timed hits throughout the road trip — if it weren’t for his three-run blast on Sunday in Detroit, the Red Sox losing streak would have hit six games. But as a whole, Ortiz’s performance over his last 23 games has been concerning. He’s batting just .154/.287/.282 (and that OBP includes six intentional walks) over that span with four extra-base hits in his last 94 plate appearances. Ortiz’s line has dipped to .252/.356/.474 on the season.

WHO’S NOT: INDIANS

– Michael Bourn hasn’t really been struggling, per se, but in the context of an Indians lineup that leads the majors in runs scored and batting average this month, he’s been one of the less productive members. Bourn is hitting .267 over his last 10 games, driving in four runs. The outfielder has bounced back after a relatively disappointing first year in Cleveland, batting .284/.329/.393 in 2014.

– Starter T.J. House was solid against the Red Sox back on June 3, but was roughed up in his next outing, lasting just 3 1/3 innings and allowing six runs (five earned) on six hits and two walks. House has been hot and cold for the Indians, with two ugly starts and two good starts on the season.

– He’s not an everyday player for the Indians by any means, but Jason Giambi is one of the few members of the Tribe’s offense who isn’t producing. With a .128/.212/.277 line in 52 plate appearances this season, it appears that the 43-year-old might not have much left in the tank.

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