The Boston Red Sox are coming off a disappointing end to their road trip. At least they’re returning home with a new leadoff hitter.
Boston (48-29) returns to Fenway Park with a 9 1/2-game lead in the AL East despite losing five of nine on its road swing. The trip ended with the Red Sox dropping three contests at Seattle, suffering a series sweep of at least three games for the first time since losing three in a row at Oakland from Aug. 28-30.
The Red Sox failed to score more than four runs in all but two games of the trip, and totaled only two homers over the final two series at San Diego and Seattle. Those last six games saw David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez combine for three RBIs with no homers.
“It was a long road trip,” Boston right fielder J.D. Drew told the team’s official Web site. “We’ve been away for a while now and it doesn’t seem like we’ve been at home for a while, so it will be nice to get back.”
Crisp heads home as the No. 1 hitter in the lineup, probably a relief to many Red Sox fans. Boston entered the trip with J.D. Drew as a temporary solution after Julio Lugo lost the job, and it doesn’t appear Lugo will reclaim it anytime soon as he’s mired in an 0-for-31 drought that dates to June 14.
Crisp took over at the top of the order in the last two series and is hitting .457 (21-for-46) with 10 runs and three steals over the last 13 games.
“He looks like that kid where you can’t throw the fastball by him,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “You can throw it 100 (mph) and he’s going to be right on it.”
Lugo is 7-for-79 (.089) this month, and might find himself on the bench for the second time in three games Friday. Backup shortstop Alex Cora is a career .409 hitter (9-for-22) against Jamey Wright, who will start for Texas.
“He’s trying. He’s doing what we’re asking,” Francona said of Lugo, batting .190 this season. “He’s trying to somewhat simplify it.”
Maybe Tim Wakefield (7-8, 4.52) needs to try the same thing as he takes the mound Friday. Since posting a 1.79 ERA and holding hitters to a .189 average through his first seven starts, Wakefield has a 7.08 ERA and .289 opponents’ batting average in his last eight.
The knuckleballer hoped he was finally back on track after throwing eight innings of one-run ball to beat Colorado on June 12, but he’s given up 11 runs and 16 hits - five homers - in 11 innings over his last two starts.
Wakefield, though, has pitched fairly well in splitting two starts this year against Texas, allowing five earned runs and eight hits in 13 innings. He’s 3-3 with a 6.27 ERA in 13 appearances against the Rangers.
He’ll face a Texas lineup which was red-hot until getting shut down by Detroit’s Kenny Rogers on Thursday in a 5-2 loss.
It was the first time in 10 games without a homer for the Rangers (32-46), who had won six of seven while scoring 57 runs. Among the hot Texas hitters are Michael Young, batting .419 (13-for-31) with eight RBIs over the last eight games, and Sammy Sosa, who’s hit .391 with 11 RBIs in his last six contests.
Wright (1-1, 7.43), meanwhile, got his first victory in a Rangers uniform Saturday, overcoming six walks to get through 5 2-3 innings of a 7-2 win over Houston. He allowed both runs and three hits in his second start after missing more than two months with shoulder inflammation.
The right-hander has never faced the Red Sox, who have won their last four games against Texas after losing the first two this season.