Boston looks to match a season high with a sixth consecutive victory Friday night when the Atlanta Braves make their first visit to Fenway Park in three years. The Red Sox, who won six straight from April 23-28, have an opportunity to move a season-best four games above .500 after rookie Will Middlebrooks homered for the second straight game and drove in four runs. The Red Sox will try to post their first six-game interleague winning streak since June 15-20, 2010, with Jon Lester (4-4, 4.53 ERA) on the hill.
The left-hander is looking to build off his first win in five starts, a 4-3 victory at Wrigley Field on Saturday when he gave up three runs - all coming on a Luis Valbuena homer - in 6 2-3 innings. Lester, 1-2 with a 5.98 ERA in seven starts at Fenway Park this season, will try to avoid the long ball Friday when he faces the Braves for the first time getting his first win in his second major league start, a 4-1 victory at Atlanta on June 16, 2006. Jason Heyward gets his first look at Red Sox pitching after hitting two of the Braves' season-best five homers in Wednesday's 10-5 road win over the New York Yankees. Heyward is batting .400 (10 for 25) during a seven-game hitting streak. The team is 9-2 when he has two or more hits.
The Braves (37-32) could use a good outing from Friday's scheduled starter Jair Jurrjens (0-2, 9.37 ERA), who is scheduled to make his first appearance since April 23. Sent down to Triple-A Gwinnett following four poor outings, the right-hander is back in the rotation - at least for now - with Brandon Beachy out for the season following Thursday's Tommy John surgery.
While the last week or so has been gut checking time in the land of first halves, the price we get this evening makes things seem a lot more reassuring to get back on the winning track. Atlanta is hitting .2587 collectively and when healthy can really have a tendency to break open games. Dan Uggla (.249 11 42) leads the club in production and we don't have to remind most his ability to ramp his numbers as we head towards the second half of the season. Heyward (.262 10 34) has also been on a tear and if he can avoid the injury bug, there will be no limitations to his capabilities. Freddie Freeman (.247 9 40) has seen his average plummet over the last few weeks but has shown signs especially over the previous series so Lester may have his hands full this evening though at home should have plenty of production on his side. Boston comes into this evening hitting .272 collectively averaging about 5.3 rpg which is not good news for an already ineffective Jurrjens on a short leash. David Ortiz (.310 18 49) has been flat out crushing the ball on his way to flirting with career highs across the board. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.265 13 34) hit some impressive tape measure shots against Miami and should provide plenty of offense, as will Middlebrooks (.316 8 31) who leads the team in hitting. Mike Aviles (.265 9 41) has done a fabulous job at SS and with the heat and humidity in beantown we should see a lot of balls fly out of Fenway. Best of luck however you play!