As former Boston manager Terry Francona concludes his journey to Fenway, his Indians (27-21) will look to take 3 of 4 in a series that saw the bullpen lose for the first time all season yesterday. Cleveland took the first 2 games of this series and led 4-3 on Saturday heading into the last half of the 8th when Boston countered with 4 runs off of Vinnie Pestano ending hope of a sweep this afternoon.
Dustin Pedroia's RBI double was the difference, and he is now hitting over .400 over his last 17 games. He leads the Red Sox in hitting (.337) and runs scored (35), a fortunate sign keeping pace with the Yankees in the AL East given all of their injuries throughout the lineup. He has hit safely in all 14 games against the Indians since the start of last season, batting .411 with 14 RBIs.
Boston will try and square the series sending Felix Doubront (3-2 5.61) to the hill today. Doubront has not won since returning to the rotation, but his last 2 starts he suffered a tough luck loss and a no-decision due to lack of run support, holding the opposition to a .205 BA and a 3.27 ERA. That's a far cry from his 5.67 ERA over his first 5 appearances given the work on his mechanics while boosting his confidence.
Outs however might not come as easy facing an Indians lineup hitting .266 with 62 HR so far this season, ranks of 6th and 4th in the majors respectively. A huge part of Cleveland's success is the resurgence of Mark Reynolds (.264 12 40) leading the team in production along with Michael Brantley (.316). Asdrubal Cabrera (.262 4 22) is also heating up after a slow start and Jason Kipnis (.242 7 24) has also provided some pop as has Nick Swisher (.273 6 17). Despite also victimized by the injury bug, their balanced lineup should not be taken lightly as various contributions have helped the Tribe stay in contention for the postseason.
Cleveland counters with Cory Kluber (3-3 5.19) who despite coming off a decent outing vs. Detroit has been at times inconsistent. Kluber pitched five scoreless innings before serving up a solo home run to Andy Dirks and a two-run shot to Miguel Cabrera in the sixth inning. The right-hander was charged with three runs and eight hits over 6 1/3 innings of work in a 5-1 defeat. Once again Big Papi is showing that father time remains on his side leading the BoSox in hitting (.345) while tied for tops in HR (8) with an otherwise struggling Will Middlebrooks and second in RBI (34) to Mike Napoli (36). Daniel Nava (.300 6 31) has also propelled the Red Sox to several victories with some clutch hitting and second only to Pedroia in OBP (.408).
We get a bargain of a price here along with a fairly high line for the first half. Quite possibly the trade-off one wouldn't mind in this spot given two potentially potent lineups combined with suspect pitchers battling for the series outcome. After a weekend of anything but ideal weather conditions the wind will be strong carrying out to the outfield this afternoon which may provide some additional carry for a park special for high scoring games and enclosed shorter distances with respect to Pesky's Pole and the monster as beneficiaries. Best of luck however you play!