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Red Sox-Reds series preview

08.12.14 at 11:41 am ET
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The Red Sox finally got the one thing that has evaded them in the last three weeks: a series win.

The Sox used stellar pitching performances from young arms Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa and Yoenis Cespedes‘ first home run with the Red Sox to take two out of three from the Angels in Anaheim over the weekend. It was the Sox’ first series win since a three-game sweep of the Royals July 18-20. Most impressively, the wins came on the west coast against a playoff-hopeful Angels club.

The Sox are 3-3 six games into their eight-game road trip, which ends with a two-game set in Cincinnati against the Reds starting Tuesday night. But even the series win wasn’t enough to help the 52-65 Sox in the AL East standings. They remain 15 games behind the first-place Orioles and five games back of the fourth-place Rays.

“This entire trip, we’ve played pretty good baseball,” Farrell said after his team’s 3-1 win on Sunday. “We didn’t tear the cover off the ball, but we pitched well and it is a boost of confidence to win a series on the road.”

The Reds are right in the mix for a playoff spot both in the NL Central and wild card races, but haven’t helped their cause with some poor play since returning from the All-Star break. Cincinnati lost nine of its first 10 games out of the break and, after losing two of three to the Marlins over the weekend, is 9-13 since the unofficial second half of the season began. At 60-58, the Reds are in fourth in the division, but just five games behind the leading Brewers and just 2 1/2 back in the wild card.

Led by starters Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey and closer Aroldis Chapman, the Reds have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. They rank sixth in the majors in team ERA (3.36) and second in opponent’s batting average (.231). Cincinnati has struggled to score runs, however, ranking 26th in all of baseball in total runs and OPS (.677).

This will be the second meeting between the two teams. The Sox swept the Reds in a two-game set at Fenway Park May 6-7, winning both games by a 4-3 score.

Here are the probable pitchers for the two-game series.

Tuesday: Joe Kelly (2-2, 3.86 ERA) vs. Mat Latos (4-3, 3.12 ERA)

Wednesday: Allen Webster (2-1, 4.91 ERA) vs. Homer Bailey (9-5, 3.71 ERA)

WHO’S HOT: RED SOX

– The Red Sox have to like what they saw from the newly-acquired Kelly in his club debut last Wednesday in St. Louis. Kelly dazzled through seven strong innings, allowing one run on three hits against his former team for a no-decision in the Sox’ 2-1 win over the Cardinals. Kelly walked four, struck out two and threw 97 pitches.

Kelly’s impressive debut was a good sign for a Red Sox team desperate for reliable pitching after dealing their top two starters in Jon Lester and John Lackey at the trade deadline. The righty had struggled in his previous two outings before the trade, but seemed comfortable pitching in a Sox uniform.

– Cespedes extended his hitting streak to six games with a three straight one-hit performances against the Angels over the weekend. His hit on Sunday was without question his biggest. The 28-year-old slugger ripped a three-run homer to left field to lead the Sox to a 3-1 win. He had five RBIs for the weekend.

Cespedes has a hit in seven of his first eight games with the Red Sox and has reached base in all eight, but on Sunday he finally gave the Sox the kind of power they’ve been looking for from him with his first homer in a Red Sox uniform.

Dustin Pedroia is on pace to have a pretty incredible month of August. The second baseman is hitting .341/.372/.463 since the calendar flipped and has had eight multi-hit games in his last 11. Pedroia was especially productive against the Angels over the weekend, collecting six hits and scoring four runs in the three games. He doubled, singled and scored on Cespedes’ homer in Sunday’s win.

WHO’S HOT: REDS

– Bailey has had an inconsistent 2014 season, but had a stellar shutout performance over seven innings against the Indians last Thursday. The righty allowed four hits, walked one and struck out eight batters for his first win since June 29.

Bailey appears to be back to form after some rough patches early in the season. He’s allowed just two runs over his last 22 innings and has pitched into the seventh in five of his last seven outings.

– No one was more responsible for the Reds’ win over the Marlins on Sunday than Devin Mesoraco. The catcher hit a two-run homer and a grand slam to drive in six of Cincinnati’s seven runs in the 7-2 victory. Mesoraco has four hits and seven RBIs in the last three games.

Jay Bruce has been one of the Reds’ hottest hitters as of late. The outfielder has struggled for most of the season, but is hitting .314 (11-for-35) in the last eight games. Bruce extended his hitting streak to four games on Sunday, adding a hit, a walk and two runs scored.

WHO’S NOT: RED SOX

Xander Bogaerts is proving those who thought he’d come around offensively once he moved back to shortstop wrong. The rookie is batting .086/.105/.143 in the nine games since going back to short, and on Sunday committed his team-high 17th error of the season on a throwing miscue while trying to turn a double play.

Jackie Bradley Jr. has become a regular on this list as of late, and with good reason. Bradley’s struggles at the plate have been so glaring this season that he was benched in the first two games and used as a defensive replacement. The rookie did start Sunday, but went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts in the Red Sox’ win. He’s now hitless in his last 35 at-bats with 18 strikeouts.

WHO’S NOT: REDS

Ryan Ludwick has seen some inconsistent playing time thanks largely to his struggles at the plate. The outfielder went hitless with three strikeouts against the Marlins over the weekend and is hitting .188 with just three hits in his last five games.

– While the Reds’ bullpen has some key contributors, Sam LeCure was not one of them when he gave up two runs in two-thirds of an inning to hand Cincinnati a 4-3 loss to the Marlins. The poor outing dropped LeCure to 1-4 with a 3.64 ERA for the season. The righty is 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in his last four outings.

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