Whether the Boston Red Sox want to admit it or not, there is clearly now a race in the AL East.
The Red Sox hope to avoid being swept in a three-game series for the third time this season as they face the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday night in a matchup of division leaders.
“When you play them, the game is at a fast pace,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said of the Angels. They’re so aggressive in all aspects of the game— hitting, running the bases—so if you’re not ready for it, they can run you into mistakes. And we allowed that to happen a few times.”
With losses in the first two games of this series, the Red Sox (68-45) have seen their lead in the East, which was 12 games as recently as July 5, cut to five games over the surging New York Yankees. The five-game edge is Boston’s smallest since May 2, when it led by 4 1/2 games.
The Red Sox are 15-14 since July 5 while the Yankees are 22-8 in that span.
Francona plans to start J.D. Drew in center field on Wednesday for the first time this season so Coco Crisp can get some much-needed rest. Crisp, who has started 100 of Boston’s first 113 games, is 7-for-30 (.233) with one RBI in his last nine games.
The Angels have won two straight against the Red Sox after losing the previous five meetings. Los Angeles hasn’t swept a three-game set from Boston since winning three in a row at Fenway Park from July 31-Aug. 2, 2001.
“We’re a good team, and we’ve been very good at home,” Matthews Jr. told the Angels’ official Web site. “This is an exciting time of year, when you’re seeing what everybody has. The crowd’s have been great the last two nights, too, giving the games a real October-like atmosphere.”
Chone Figgins singled on Wakefield’s first pitch of the game and stole second, making him the first player in the Angels’ 47-year history with four consecutive seasons of 30 or more steals.
Figgins is batting .452 (38-for-84) with 12 RBIs, 20 runs scored and 10 stolen bases in his last 22 games.
Boston sends Jon Lester (1-0, 5.09 ERA) to the mound, hoping the left-hander can improve on his last start. Lester struggled at Seattle on Friday, allowing four runs and eight hits in four innings before leaving without a decision in his team’s 7-4 loss.
Lester is 1-1 with a 6.35 ERA in two career starts against the Angels—both coming last season. This will be his first start at Angel Stadium since Aug. 23, when he pitched his last game in the majors before undergoing chemotherapy for lymphoma.
Dustin Moseley (4-1, 4.43) makes his third straight start for Los Angeles in place of the injured Bartolo Colon, who is on the DL with right elbow irritation. The right-hander has made 31 relief appearances this season and is 1-0 with a 3.68 ERA in four starts.
After pitching effectively in his first two starts, Moseley has struggled in his last two. He gave up three runs and four hits over 5 1-3 innings Friday in the Angels’ 8-4 loss at Oakland, leaving without a decision.
Moseley tossed two scoreless innings of relief against the Red Sox on April 16 in his only appearance against them.