If the Boston Red Sox plan on defending their World Series title, they’re likely going to have to improve their poor play on the road.
They may also need to do a whole lot better against the Los Angeles Angels.
The Red Sox will try to avoid their fifth straight road loss—and their fifth straight defeat against the major league-leading Angels—when the teams complete their three-game series in Anaheim on Sunday.
Boston (57-42) has the best home record in the majors, but its 21-31 mark away from Fenway Park is the league’s worst among clubs with overall winning records.
After Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Angels, the Red Sox have now dropped nine of their last 11 on the road, scoring only 10 total runs during their current four-game road skid. They stranded 12 runners Saturday, one day after managing only five hits in an 11-3 loss.
Los Angeles (59-38) also took the last two games of a three-game set in Boston from April 22-24, turning the tables on the team that eliminated the Angels with a three-game sweep in last year’s AL division series. A victory Sunday would clinch their first season-series win over the Red Sox since 2001.
“It’s a series in July,” Los Angeles reliever Scot Shields said. “I do think we’re a better team now than we were in the past. I’m not saying we’re a better team than they are. (But) we’ve always come to the park thinking we can win.”
With a four-game winning streak overall, the Angels have opened up an eight-game lead over Oakland atop the AL West—the biggest in any division in baseball. They’ve allowed just nine runs in their last four games after allowing that many in a 9-2 loss to Oakland July 11.
Jon Garland (8-6, 4.20 ERA) was on the mound for that game, struggling through his worst start of the season, as he allowed seven runs and 10 hits in 2 2-3 innings. He had pitched a complete game in a 7-1 win over Toronto in his previous start.
Garland has struggled against the Red Sox, going 4-5 with a 5.57 ERA in his career against them. Manny Ramirez is 12-for-23 (.522) with three homers and nine RBIs against Garland.
Ramirez has hit safely in eight straight games, going 14-for-28 with three homers and eight RBIs over that span, and Kevin Youkilis has four home runs and 14 RBIs in his last six games.
The rest of Boston’s lineup, however, has struggled in Anaheim as the Red Sox have fallen back into second place in the AL East, a game and a half behind Tampa Bay.
“We’ve been getting on base and having opportunities,” Youkilis said. “We’ve just got to seize those opportunities a little bit more. After the All-Star break, sometimes you get a little bit like this and not everyone’s 100 percent after a couple of days off. But once we get rolling again on all cylinders, we’ll be fine.”
Tim Wakefield (6-6, 3.60) has been rolling for nearly two months. He has a 2.13 ERA in his last nine starts dating to late May, and is coming off one of his best over that span, as he allowed one run and two hits in seven innings of a 12-1 win over Baltimore last Saturday.
“Everything’s been clicking for me,” Wakefield said. “I don’t want to change anything. I’ve been on a run and hopefully I can keep doing that.”
He might try to pitch around Vladimir Guerrero, who is 7-for-16 with four home runs against Wakefield.