The Red Sox have been unable to get their offense on track against a suspect Rangers pitching staff, and enter Monday’s matchup just hoping for a split of this four-game set.
Texas has limited Boston to seven runs while winning two of the first three games, climbing a half-game ahead of Tampa Bay for the AL’s worst record and dropping the Red Sox two games behind the Los Angeles Angels for the best.
Facing a Rangers club which entered with the second-worst ERA (5.34) in the majors, Boston has only one homer in the series and been held under 10 hits in all three games.
“You go in cycles where it seems like scoring runs is very difficult,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “You go through times when it seems like you’re whacking it all over the ballpark. We’ll straighten it up and we’ll put a bunch up.”
The Texas bullpen has thrown 11 scoreless innings in this series, including three in Sunday’s 2-1 victory after starter Kameron Loe worked six effective innings.
“We struggled a lot and it was frustrating. Now that we’re putting wins together, it’s very big going into the All-Star break,” Loe said.
Boston’s David Ortiz went 0-for-4 on Sunday and is in a 2-for-17 slump. He’s homerless with three RBIs and 12 strikeouts over his past nine games, and hasn’t homered in 28 games at Fenway Park since April 21.
Manny Ramirez is 3-for-27 (.111) over the last eight games, and the Red Sox have lost six of them.
While Ortiz and Ramirez learned Sunday they made the AL All-Star team along with teammates Mike Lowell, Josh Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon, the Rangers’ lone representative will be shortstop Michael Young.
Boston’s sluggers might have trouble breaking their slumps against Brandon McCarthy (4-4, 5.90 ERA), who comes off the disabled list to start for Texas. Current Red Sox players are a combined 6-for-37 (.162) against him, including 1-for-24 by Ortiz, Ramirez, Kevin Youkilis and Jason Varitek.
This is McCarthy’s second start in six weeks due to a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand.
“It hasn’t been fun, missing time. It’s definitely been tough,” McCarthy told the Rangers’ official Web site. “But it definitely could be worse. At least it was a blister and not anything worse. I’d rather have that than an arm injury and miss the entire season.”
The right-hander went 3-0 with a 2.31 ERA in four starts before suffering the injury against Boston on May 25, when he left after two innings of a 10-6 loss. He walked four and was charged with four runs despite allowing only one hit. His lone outing since that one came against Milwaukee on June 9 as he gave up one run in five innings of a 4-3 win.
McCarthy did not get a decision in either of those starts, and remains unbeaten since April 29 at Toronto. He’s 1-1 with a 4.11 ERA in five career appearances—two starts—against the Red Sox.
This could be Kason Gabbard’s last shot in Boston’s rotation for a while if Curt Schilling’s sore shoulder is better in time for his next turn, or if the Red Sox want to try a different option. The latter may be the case if Gabbard (1-0, 6.48) pitches as poorly as he did Tuesday, allowing four runs and six hits with six walks in 3 1-3 innings of an 8-7 loss at Seattle after being called up to take Schilling’s spot in the rotation.
Gabbard’s only other start for the Red Sox this year came on May 20, when he filled in for an injured Beckett and gave up two runs while striking out seven in five innings of a 6-3 win over Atlanta. The left-hander has not faced Texas in nine major league appearances.
The first batter he’ll face is the Rangers’ hottest. Leadoff man Kenny Lofton has hit safely in nine straight games, going 18-for-36 with six extra-base hits.