Boston (50-32) at Houston (37-43)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Houston, TX
Temp: 91° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Sat Jun 28, 2008
  • TV: NESN, FSSW
Preview | Box Score | Recap

A trip to Houston might be just what Boston needed to tune up for a tough week ahead.

The Red Sox will look to remain undefeated against the Astros as the teams continue their three-game series Saturday at Minute Maid Park.

Boston (50-32) won 6-1 Friday in its first-ever game in Houston. The Red Sox swept the Astros (37-43) in three games June 13-15, 2003—the only previous series between the teams.

Boston has now beaten every NL opponent on the road except the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Despite the five-year layoff, Boston picked right up where it left off. Daisuke Matsuzaka threw five scoreless innings, and J.D. Drew snapped an 0-for-14 drought with a three-run homer.

Even with the hitless stretch, Drew is batting .358 with 11 homers and 26 RBIs in June.

“It’s been a nice month,” he said. “I’ll just try to transition that up for the rest of the season.”

The Red Sox are hoping he can at least keep it going through next week. They kick off a three-game series with surprising Tampa Bay on Monday before traveling to New York for four games with the archrival Yankees.

Friday’s win kept Boston one-half game ahead of the Rays atop the AL East standings, while the surging Yankees are six games back.

Boston will have to start the week without Coco Crisp, who will begin serving a five-game suspension Saturday. Crisp, who was penalized for his role in a bench-clearing brawl during Boston’s game with Tampa Bay on June 5, had the ban reduced from seven games.

Jacoby Ellsbury will start in Crisp’s place during the suspension.

Starter Jon Lester (6-3, 3.13 ERA), who gets the ball on Saturday, has already served a five-game suspension stemming from the same incident. Lester has allowed three or fewer earned runs in 11 straight starts, including his May 19 no-hitter against Kansas City.

He allowed two runs in 7 1-3 innings of Boston’s 13-inning, 5-3 win over St. Louis on Sunday.

“It’s getting a little repetitive, but that’s a good thing,” manager Terry Francona told the Red Sox’s official Web site. “Every five days, he gets the ball, he works quicker. He’s throwing strikes. He’s doing a great job.”

Lester has never faced the Astros, but he is 4-0 with a 1.98 ERA in six career interleague starts.

Houston counters with Brandon Backe (5-8, 4.82), who will be trying to build on his first win in five starts. He gave up two runs in 6 2-3 innings of Sunday’s 3-2 victory at Tampa Bay after going 0-3 with a 7.40 ERA in his previous four starts.

“It’s nice to have a win, obviously, under my belt. I know it’s been a long time,” the right-hander told the Astros’ site. “But we’re a team struggling right now, regardless of who gets the win or who gets the loss.”

Backe has made four career relief outings against the Red Sox, allowing eight runs in 5 1-3 innings. However, he has not faced Boston since 2003 while still with Tampa Bay.

Reggie Abercrombie’s pinch-hit homer accounted for the only run for the Astros, who got just four hits after managing 25 their previous two games.

Lance Berkman singled and is 8-for-14 (.571) with three doubles and a homer in his last four games.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Lester ChC vs. B. Backe Hou
16-6 Record 9-14
3.21 ERA 6.05
152 K 127
66 BB 77
1.27 WHIP 1.67

Scoreboard

Saturday, Jun 28