The last time the Boston Red Sox visited Chicago, one of the most lopsided series in AL history served as a springboard for the Red Sox en route to last year’s World Series title.
It’s unlikely to be quite so easy on Friday, as they’ll face a fellow playoff contender when they begin a four-game series against the first-place White Sox.
Boston (66-49) has won seven straight games against Chicago, with the four most recent victories coming during a four-game drubbing of the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field last August.
The Red Sox won each game from Aug. 24-26 by at least eight runs, scoring in double digits in all four games—a feat that hadn’t been achieved in the AL in 85 years. The aggregate score in the series was 46-7.
“I never think in my career, ‘Wow, I can’t wait until this game is over,’” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen told his team’s official Web site Thursday. “Then, I couldn’t wait until that series was over. I thought about it that weekend. It was pretty awful.”
While the Red Sox are contending for another playoff spot - leading the AL wild card and trailing Tampa Bay by 2 1/2 games in the AL East - they’ll be facing a Chicago team that looks completely different from last year’s club. The White Sox (63-50) finished fourth in the AL Central and lost 90 games in 2007, but they lead the Central by a half-game over Minnesota entering Friday.
They failed to complete a home sweep of Detroit on Thursday, losing 8-3, but they’ve still won 25 of their last 32 at home. Their 37-17 record on Chicago’s South Side is the fourth-best home record in the majors.
Mark Buehrle (8-10, 4.07 ERA) has excelled at home, going 5-1 with a 2.16 ERA in his last seven starts at U.S. Cellular Field. But Buehrle has dropped his last two starts overall, allowing 13 runs and 22 hits in 9 1-3 innings at Minnesota and Kansas City.
The left-hander has also struggled against the Red Sox, going 0-4 with a 7.18 ERA in his last five starts against them. Four of those starts came at home.
He’ll face another talented southpaw in Boston’s Jon Lester (10-3, 3.14), who has been perhaps the Red Sox’s most reliable pitcher this season. Not only is Lester 7-0 with a 2.56 ERA in 10 starts since the beginning of June, but he’s won his last three outings, allowing four runs in 21 1-3 innings over that span.
“The team has a whole lot of confidence with him on the mound,” All-Star catcher Jason Varitek told his team’s official Web site.
Lester hasn’t faced the White Sox since July 7, 2006, when he gave up two runs of Boston’s 7-2 victory in Chicago.
The Red Sox return there having won five of their last six games both overall and on the road. They took the final two games of their three-game set this week at Kansas City, winning a pair of 8-2 contests on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The acquisition of Jason Bay continues to pay off for Boston, as the former Pittsburgh Pirate—acquired as part of last week’s deal that sent Manny Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers—has hit safely in all six of his games with the Red Sox. He is batting .423 (11-for-26) with a home run and six RBIs.
“I just look at it as, ‘They traded Manny and they needed a left fielder.’ That’s the way I look at it,” Bay said. “Somebody had to come play after him, and I’m kind of glad it was me.”