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Monday’s Red Sox-Royals matchups: Daisuke Matsuzaka vs. Luke Hochevar 08.27.12 at 11:15 am ET
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Daisuke Matsuzaka will make his first start since July 2 on Monday afternoon when the Red Sox host the Royals in their series finale at Fenway Park.

Matsuzaka will be activated for the start after occupying the 15-day disabled list for a neck injury. Matsuzaka hasn’€™t pitched for the Red Sox since that July 2 outing, when he lasted only one inning against the Athletics after giving up four hits, five runs (all earned), two home runs and a pair of walks.

Matsuzaka, who is 0-3 with a 6.65 ERA in five starts with the Red Sox this season, is hopeful that this time around nets some better results. And if his last start for Triple-A Pawtucket is any indication, he may just do that. On Thursday, he went seven scoreless innings and allowed just one hit to Rochester.

Tommy John surgery put Matsuzaka, whose contract expires after this season, on the DL to begin the year and he didn’€™t make his first start of the season until June 9 against the Nationals. The Japanese righty hasn’€™t won a major league game since May 8, 2011, against the Twins, and he’€™ll try to end the drought against the Royals, who he is 2-1 with a 3.63 ERA against in three career starts. His last start against them came on May 27, 2010, when he allowed eight walks and three runs in 4 2/3 innings in a 4-3 loss.

Luke Hochevar will take the hill for the Royals and will try to even the series by duplicating the performance from his last start. On Tuesday, the righty may have put together his best start of the season, pitching eight scoreless innings while allowing just one hit and striking out 10 batters. He didn’€™t pick up the win, though, and was dealt a no-decision after the Royals topped the Rays, 1-0, in extra innings.

Hochevar’€™s last start isn’€™t indicative of how his season has gone, however. Entering Monday, he is 7-11 with a 4.95 ERA. He’€™s started six career games against the Red Sox, going 2-4 with a 6.56 ERA.

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Tony La Russa has confidence in Bobby Valentine, Red Sox 08.27.12 at 4:19 am ET
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Tony La Russa knows a thing or two about managing a successful baseball team.

After all, the former Cardinals, Athletics and White Sox manager was doing it for over 30 years before retiring after last season, winning three World Series titles and four Manager of the Year awards in the process.

La Russa knows what it takes to build a baseball team to the top, even if it requires some difficult times along the way. So when he watches this 2012 Red Sox team fail to meet expectations like it has, he knows what he’€™s talking about. And when he hears people calling for Red Sox skipper Bobby Valentine to be fired because of how disastrous his first season in Boston has been, he can definitely relate.

‘€œI think it’€™s very upsetting when somebody tries to tell an organization what they should be doing,’€ La Russa told WEEI.com before Sunday’€™s game at Fenway Park. ‘€œI never liked it when I was with the Cardinals, the A’€™s, the White Sox … this is what Tony should do. The Red Sox know what they’€™re doing.’€

Being in the game for so long, La Russa knows Valentine well, going back to when his Cardinals teams and Valentine’€™s Mets teams squared off in the 2000 NLCS, which Valentine and the Mets won. He knows how qualified Valentine is, even if this year’€™s results aren’€™t exactly indicative of it.

‘€œHe’€™s a really bright guy. And this has been a tough situation and they haven’€™t caught a lot of breaks, and everyone needs to catch breaks,’€ La Russa said. ‘€œThey’€™ve had health issues of some key guys since day one.

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Closing Time: Red Sox hold on, beat Royals 08.26.12 at 5:14 pm ET
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The Red Sox‘€™ season might be over, but don’€™t tell them that.

After completing one of the most monumental trades in team history on Saturday, the Red Sox are looking toward the future. And on Sunday, that future was on full display. Pedro Ciriaco put together yet another impressive performance while a pair of Red Sox players making their Boston debuts — first baseman James Loney and relief pitcher Pedro Beato — made an impact in the team’€™s 8-6 victory over the Royals at Fenway Park.

Felix Doubront, making his return from the disabled list, was inconsistent, pitching just five innings and allowing four earned runs while striking out seven, but the offense once again picked up the slack, racking up 14 hits and putting across eight runs.

Here’€™s what went right and wrong for the Red Sox in the win over the Royals.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

‘€¢ Ciriaco continued his impressive season by going 3-for-5 with two RBIs from the leadoff spot, including a mammoth solo homer ‘€“ his second career round-tripper ‘€“ in the fifth that cleared the Green Monster seats and smacked off the AAA Auto Insurance sign.

Ciriaco is hitting .360 this season and has 17 hits in his last 35 at-bats. His hitting streak is at six games.

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Friday’s Red Sox-Royals matchups: Jon Lester vs. Bruce Chen 08.24.12 at 12:32 pm ET
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To put it lightly, Jon Lester‘€™s 2012 season has been one, long rollercoaster ride ‘€“ with more downs than ups — that doesn’€™t seem like it will end any time soon.

Lester, who is 7-10 with a 5.03 ERA, is having by far the worst season of his career, which may have hit its low point on July 22, when he lasted only four innings and gave up four home runs and 11 runs (all earned) in a loss to the Blue Jays. Since then, however, Lester has at least began to resemble the All-Star caliber pitcher that everyone expected him to be.

In five starts since that disastrous start on July 22, the lefty is 2-2 with a 3.47 ERA. He’€™s gone at least six innings in all of them and is coming off back-to-back quality starts coming into Friday’€™s start against the Royals. On Aug. 12, Lester pitched six innings, gave up one run on three hits and struck out 12 in a win against the Indians. Then, on Aug. 18, he followed that up with another good outing, tossing seven innings and giving up one run on five hits in a win against the Yankees, completing back-to-back victories for the first time in three months

Now, Lester will take on the Royals, a team he’€™s had relative success against in his career, Friday night at Fenway Park, where he hasn’€™t had much success this season. In 14 starts on his home mound, Lester is just 2-8 with a 6.83 ERA and hasn’€™t won there since June 27 against the Blue Jays. He’€™ll try to put an end to that against the Royals, who he is 5-2 with a 1.35 ERA in eight career starts. That includes his start against them on May 9, when he suffered a loss after pitching six innings, giving up four runs ‘€“ only one of which was earned — on six hits.

Opposing Lester for the Royals will be Bruce Chen, who is experiencing a similarly rocky season to that of Lester. The lefty is 9-10 with a 5.45 ERA entering Friday’€™s matchup with the Red Sox.

Despite his deficiencies, Chen has won two of his last three starts, including his last time out against the White Sox on Aug. 18, when he went six innings and gave up two runs on five hits in a 9-4 victory.

Coincidentally, Chen’€™s last start against the Red Sox came on the aforementioned May 9 game, when Chen earned his first victory of the season after going 6 2/3 innings, scattering three runs on seven hits and striking out five. In 10 career starts against the Red Sox, Chen is 4-6 with a 5.76 ERA.

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Closing Time: Red Sox misery continues in another loss to Angels 08.23.12 at 11:47 pm ET
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Almost five months into the season, the Red Sox are still finding new ways to lose.

A season full of failures and controversy may have hit its tipping point Thursday night. A 6-0 lead vanished in the blink of an eye as starting pitcher Franklin Morales and reliever Clayton Mortensen combined to give up eight runs in the third inning. As Bobby Valentine exited his spot in the dugout to relieve Mortensen of his duties, boos rained down heavily at Fenway Park as the Red Sox faced yet another devastating loss in its ugly season.

And it was only the beginning.

The Red Sox eventually stormed back to take an 11-9 lead going into the ninth inning, only to see it wipe away in the blink of an eye again as closer Alfredo Aceves surrendered three unanswered runs to give the Angels a 12-11 lead. Cody Ross tied the game in the bottom half of the inning with a solo shot into the Monster seats and the game was then sent to extras, where Aceves, still in the game, gave away a leadoff solo homer to Kendrys Morales to deep right, the final nail in the coffin of a wild back-and-forth affair at Fenway Park as the Angels finally prevailed in 10 innings, 14-13.

Here’s what went right and wrong for the Red Sox as their losing streak stretched to four games in a series-sweeping loss.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

‘€¢ To put it bluntly, the third inning was a train wreck for the Red Sox that you simply couldn’t keep your eyes away from watching. The Angels came to bat 13 times and crossed the plate eight times in the frame to completely erase the 6-0 deficit the Red Sox built in the first two innings and take an 8-6 lead. Seven of the eight runs came with two outs, including Franklin Morales’€™ bases-loaded walk to Kendrys Morales that started six consecutive plate appearances from Angels hitters that resulted in a run scored.

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Friday’s Red Sox-Yankees matchups: Franklin Morales vs. Phil Hughes 08.17.12 at 8:29 am ET
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Whether it’€™s coming out of the bullpen to deliver strong relief innings or providing quality starts, Franklin Morales, for better or worse, has been one of the most undervalued and important pieces of the Red Sox pitching staff this season.

Morales saw spot starts while he stepped in for an injured Josh Beckett back in June, and results then didn’€™t suggest that he should leave the rotation after a stretch of five solid starts. In fact, the Red Sox actually rolled with a six-man rotation until the team ultimately decided to send him back to the bullpen.

It wasn’€™t until a second injury to Beckett in late July that Morales was returned to the rotation. And since then, unlike Beckett and his equally struggling pitching mate Jon Lester, there haven’€™t been any complaints about the Venezuelan lefty. In fact, other than Clay Buchholz, Morales probably has been the most reliable pitcher on the Red Sox pitching staff this season. In seven starts this season, Morales is 3-2 with a 3.35 ERA.

On Friday night, Morales will take the mound at Yankee Stadium to start a three-game series with the Yankees. Despite his success this season, Morales probably had his worst start of the year back on July 7 against the Yankees at Fenway Park. In that game, he only lasted 3 1/3 innings and gave up six runs on six hits in a brutal 6-1 loss.

Morales pitched an inning of relief against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium on July 27, when he tossed two scoreless outings and struck out two. In six career appearances against the rivals, Morales is 1-1 with a 7.27 ERA

The Yankees will counter with Phil Hughes, who is having a rocky 2012 season. The righty is 11-10 with a 4.44 ERA, but despite his wild inconsistencies he has shown stretches of brilliance, as he went 4-1 in the month of June and put together a solid month of July after a difficult beginning to the season.

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Read More: franklin morales, Phil Hughes, Red Sox, Yankees
Closing Time: Timely hitting helps Red Sox avoid series sweep by Orioles 08.16.12 at 10:30 pm ET
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It wasn’€™t pretty, but the Red Sox did just enough on Thursday night to capitalize on their opportunities and beat the Orioles, 6-3, at Camden Yards to avoid a series sweep.

Clay Buchholz, fresh off his complete game two-hitter last Friday against the Indians, didn’€™t start sharp, but eventually settled into a groove. He gave up three runs in his first two innings of work, but battled back and was on task for the rest of his outing.

After the second inning, Buchholz gave up just two hits and forced the Orioles into a number of double plays as he captured his second win in as many starts and seventh in his last 11. For the game, Buchholz pitched eight innings, gave up three runs (all earned) on seven hits with seven strikeouts.

The right-hander got a big boost from the Red Sox offense as well. A night after the Orioles teed off for five runs in the sixth, the Red Sox turned the tables on them by scoring three runs in the sixth Thursday night ‘€“ all with two outs ‘€“ to break a 3-3 tie and take over the lead.

From there, Buchholz was dominant, striking out the side in the sixth en route to the victory, which brought the Red Sox back to three games under .500 as they head into a three-game weekend series in New York against the Yankees.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

‘€¢ The Red Sox got timely hitting in the sixth, scoring three runs to break the tie and take over the lead, which they would not relinquish. All of the runs came with two outs, starting with a Dustin Pedroia infield single which scored Scott Podsednik.

A batter later, Adrian Gonzalez singled home Carl Crawford and then Cody Ross hit a single that plated Pedroia.

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