Fresh off a successful nine-game road trip, the Boston Red Sox are feeling good about their chances of qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
The Red Sox begin their season-ending run of 17 consecutive games with the opener of a three-game series with the Chicago White Sox at Fenway Park.
“I don’t think you could ask any more of this ballclub on this trip,” manager Grady Little said. “We played awfully well on the trip.”
The Red Sox won the first five games, including twice at Yankee Stadium.
“It’s all about timing,” Little said. “It’s about the health of a ballclub and who’s hot at the time. Our ballclub has picked a good time to start playing good baseball right now.
“We picked a good time to get hot.”
The rest of the Red Sox’s schedule is relatively light. After their three-game series with the White Sox, they will play seven games against Tampa Bay, four against Baltimore and three with Cleveland, all sub-.500 teams.
The White Sox come in off Thursday’s 5-2 loss to Minnesota that gave the Twins a share of the AL Central lead.
After their three games with Boston, the White Sox have seven against Kansas City, three against the Yankees and three with Minnesota.
STANDINGS: White Sox - 1st place (tied), AL Central. Red Sox - 2nd place, 4 GB, AL East.
WHITE SOX PROBABLE STARTER: Dan Wright (1-5, 5.42 ERA). Wright gave up two earned runs and five hits in five innings of the White Sox’s 7-3 win over Cleveland on Sunday, but did not receive a decision. The right-hander, who has made 13 starts and five relief appearances this season, is 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA in four career appearances, including three starts, against the Red Sox.
RED SOX PROBABLE STARTER: Jeff Suppan (1-2, 5.67 ERA). Suppan, who has won six of his last eight decisions, gave up two earned runs and three hits in seven innings of a 3-1 loss to the Yankees on Sunday. The right-hander, who was acquired from Pittsburgh at the trade deadline, is 5-6 with a 4.85 ERA in 19 career appearances, including 17 starts, against the White Sox.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: White Sox - Magglio Ordonez, .322 avg. and 90 runs; Thomas, 40 HRs; Carlos Lee, 100 RBIs and 17 SBs. Red Sox - Bill Mueller, .333 avg.; Manny Ramirez, 32 HRs; Nomar Garciaparra, 96 RBIs and 113 runs; Johnny Damon, 28 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Red Sox, 4-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: White Sox - With his home run Thursday, DH Thomas reached the 40-homer plateau for the fifth time in his career. … 1B-OF Brian Daubach picked up his 500th career hit Thursday. … RHP Wright is 1-4 with a 6.82 ERA in eight appearances, including five starts, on the road this season. Red Sox - RF Trot Nixon, who left Tuesday’s game in the second inning and sat out on Wednesday, was examined Thursday. The test revealed that he has a strained muscle in his left calf. He is listed as day-to-day and will likely miss a week. … OF Ramirez is in the midst of a season-high 15-game hitting streak, five short of his career high. … The Red Sox lost a pair of tiebreaker coin flips on Thursday. If they finish in a tie with the Yankees for first place in the AL East, they would play a one-game playoff at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 29. If they tie the Mariners for the AL wild card, they would travel to Safeco Field on Sept. 29.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: White Sox - 30-41 on the road; Red Sox - 46-24 at home.
INJURIES: White Sox - LHP Josh Stewart (hand), 15-day DL. Red Sox - 1B-DH Jeremy Giambi (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Bob Howry (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Robert Person (hip), 60-day DL; RF Nixon (calf), day-to-day.