The lineup of the Boston Red Sox isn’t nearly as potent away from Fenway Park. Facing the major leagues’ ERA leader won’t make matters easier.
Boston (42-28) is a major-league best 28-7 at home, including a 7-2 mark on its most recent homestand. The Red Sox are batting .294 and averaging 6.0 runs per game at Fenway.
They haven’t looked like the same club on the road, where they fell to 14-21 after a 3-1 loss to the Reds (33-36) in Friday’s series opener. They managed only five hits against Aaron Harang and two Cincinnati relievers as their road batting average fell to .266. They are averaging 4.2 runs away from home.
The Reds led the entire way Friday after rookie Jay Bruce led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run. The 21-year-old center fielder is batting .382 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 18 games since being promoted to the majors.
“Just showing we can play with those teams is great,” Bruce said. “That was a good game, really tough. It could have busted out either way.”
Volquez (9-2, 1.56 ERA) will look to win his third straight start and also guide the Reds to their third consecutive victory overall. The former Texas Rangers right-hander has been so dominant during his first season in Cincinnati, that despite a quality start in his last outing he allowed a season high in runs.
Pitching at Florida on Monday, Volquez gave up three runs, three hits and five walks in six innings of a 9-4 win - a game highlighted by Ken Griffey Jr.’s 600th career home run. Despite yielding the season-high three runs, Volquez lowered his opponent batting average to .184 - best in the majors.
While Volquez will be facing the Red Sox for the first time, Boston’s Tim Wakefield (4-4, 4.33) will face the Reds for the first time since 1993, when he pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Bruce and Volquez were both in grade school. Wakefield went 1-1 with a 7.80 ERA in two starts versus Cincinnati during that season.
The 41-year-old right-hander has now limited opponents to two runs or fewer in each of his last three outings. He earned an 11-3 win over Seattle last Saturday, when he yielded two runs and five hits over seven innings as his knuckleball baffled the Mariners.
“If I’m out there missing pitches, both the catcher and hitter are having trouble with it, then it’s a good sign,” said Kevin Cash, Wakefield’s personal catcher. “When the hitters are not having awkward swings that’s not a good sign.”
The Red Sox, who had won four of five prior to Friday, will now try to avoid losing consecutive games for the first time since May 27-28 at Seattle. They’ll be without slugger Manny Ramirez, who left the series opener with a sore right hamstring and will not play Saturday.
“He said he was really feeling it, so we took him out,” Boston manager Terry Francona said. “We’ll wait until he’s better than to try to run him out there.”
Cincinnati, meanwhile, is seeking its first three-game winning streak since sweeping Atlanta from May 30-June 1. The Reds are 4-0 in interleague play, compared with a 29-36 mark against the NL.