Boston will look to complete its first three-game road sweep of the season on Wednesday against the Mariners, the AL’s worst team.
The Red Sox (59-43) have the best home record in baseball, but when they’ve left Fenway Park they haven’t had the look of a team intent on defending its World Series title.
Boston is 23-32 on the road this season, a far cry from 2007, when it had the best road record in the AL. The Red Sox had been even worse away from home before coming to Seattle on Monday, losing 10 of their previous 12.
But facing the Mariners (38-62) has helped them get back on track. Boston got 7 1-3 innings from Washington native Jon Lester on Monday in a 4-0 win, and also got 7 1-3 from Daisuke Matsuzaka on Tuesday, who improved to 11-1 with his team’s 4-2 victory.
“If our starters get us deep like that we should be OK,” manager Terry Francona said. “Sometimes your pitching gives your offense time to kind of get straightened out. If we get deep in games on a consistent basis we should be fine.”
Standing in the way of Boston’s first road sweep of at least three games in 11 months is Felix Hernandez (7-6, 2.95 ERA). The 22-year-old has shown he has some of the best stuff in baseball, though he’s often received little run support from the Mariners, the AL’s lowest-scoring team.
Hernandez gave up five runs over 7 2-3 innings to Boston in a 5-3 loss at home on May 26, but was excellent at Fenway on June 6. He gave up six hits in six innings as the Mariners won 8-0, snapping Boston’s 13-game home winning streak.
“He’s got great stuff,” Francona told the team’s official Web site after that loss. “He threw some real good offspeed pitches. The fastball is obvious. (He) kept us off-balance with the offspeed.”
Since May 31, Hernandez is 5-1 with a 1.84 ERA in seven starts. He picked up his fifth win in that stretch on Friday against Cleveland, giving up two runs over six innings while striking out eight in Seattle’s 8-2 victory.
The Red Sox will counter with another young pitcher, but the 23-year-old Clay Buchholz hasn’t been having nearly as much success as Hernandez lately. Buchholz (2-5, 5.88) was injured in mid-May and subsequently sent to the minors, and hasn’t pitched well in two starts since he was called up from Triple-A earlier this month.
Buchholz is 0-2 with a 7.45 ERA in those outings, lasting 4 2-3 innings while giving up eight runs—four earned—in an 11-3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Friday.
He’s given up seven runs in the first inning over his last three starts.
“(We talked about trying) to manipulate the sitting down and getting back up for the first and time, and see how that works, and maybe we can break that first inning barrier that’s there right now,” Buchholz told Boston’s official Web site of his pregame bullpen routine.
The Red Sox have the third-highest scoring offense in baseball, but they’ve scored 18 runs in their last six games. They could use some more production from third baseman Mike Lowell, who had been just 1-for-22 over his last five games before getting two hits on Tuesday.
Lowell is 3-for-15 (.200) with a homer in his career against Hernandez. All-Star right fielder J.D. Drew, meanwhile, is 7-for-14 versus the Mariners’ right-hander.