With an important series next week against the AL East leaders, the Boston Red Sox want to return to Fenway Park with some momentum.
The Red Sox close a three-game series against the Texas Rangers on Sunday after failing to capitalize on an opportunity to cut into their deficit in the division the previous night.
The Red Sox (83-58) had a four-game winning streak snapped Saturday in a 15-8 loss to the Rangers (70-73). Boston had won eight straight against Texas this season, scoring 75 runs in those victories, but despite Kevin Youkilis’ homer and three RBIs, it wasn’t enough after Tim Wakefield gave up seven runs in 1 2-3 innings.
AL MVP candidate Dustin Pedroia was 0-for-3, snapping a nine-game hitting streak in which he was hitting .579 (22-for-38) with five doubles, three homers and 12 RBIs. Nelson Cruz, meanwhile, homered twice and drove in five runs for the Rangers, who have won four of six.
The Red Sox remained 2 1/2 games behind Tampa Bay in the AL East and 5 1/2 games ahead of Minnesota in the wild card. Both the Rays, who visit Fenway for a three-game series beginning Monday, and Twins lost earlier in the day Saturday.
Boston hasn’t lost a series since dropping a two-game set against Toronto at home Aug. 16-17.
“It’s three weeks and we’ve got six games left against (the Rays),” catcher Kevin Cash told the Red Sox’s official Web site. “(Sunday’s) huge. We want to win this series and put ourselves in good position when we play the Rays next week.”
Wakefield’s short outing forced four Boston relievers to combine for 6 1-3 innings on Saturday. The bullpen has been called on to pitch at least four innings in three of the last five games.
Paul Byrd (10-11, 4.58 ERA) hopes to provide the Red Sox with a lengthy outing to ease some of the pressure. The right-hander is 3-1 with a 4.78 in four starts since being traded to the Red Sox, and he’s been pitching well for more than a month now, going 7-1 with a 2.93 ERA in eight starts since July 21. On Monday against Baltimore, he pitched seven innings, allowing four runs and seven hits in a 7-4 win.
“He’s been awesome,” Pedroia said. “He attacks the zone, he gives us a lot of innings. He always keeps us in the ballgames and that’s all you can ask out of a starting pitcher.”
Byrd is 3-5 with a 6.40 ERA in nine starts against the Rangers. He has struggled in five starts in Arlington, going 1-4 with an 8.06 ERA.
Brandon McCarthy (1-0, 2.25) looks to build off his first win in more than a year when he takes the mound for the Rangers on Sunday.
McCarthy went on the 60-day disabled list on March 30 with right forearm inflammation, and he made his first start on Aug. 23. On Tuesday against Seattle, he allowed two runs and four hits in six innings of a 6-4 win. The victory was his first since July 31, 2007 against Cleveland.
“He competes hard,” manager Ron Washington said. “Once he controls his pitch count, you’ll see him go deeper into games.”
The 25-year-old right-hander is 1-2 with a 5.21 ERA in three starts and three relief appearances against the Red Sox. This is his first time facing them this season.