The Boston Red Sox have few concerns about ace Josh Beckett(notes), who will be trying to remain unbeaten at home when he takes the mound Monday for the start of a four-game series with the Oakland Athletics.
Beckett may have doubts, however, about how much support he’ll get, as Boston’s floundering offense will try to get back on track and beat Oakland’s Trevor Cahill(notes) for the second time this month.
The Red Sox (57-40) are having trouble keeping pace with the red-hot New York Yankees in the AL East, and their surprisingly meek bats have been the main reason why.
The team has dropped six of eight to fall 2 1/2 games behind New York, and it has scored more than three runs just once over that span. Boston still had a chance at a three-game home sweep of Baltimore on Sunday, but managed six hits - five of them singles - in a 6-2 loss to the Orioles.
Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis(notes) and Jason Bay(notes) were each 0 for 4 in the loss, and Bay especially has struggled lately. The outfielder is batting .159 (14 for 88) in his last 26 games, and he’s been held without an RBI in his last 12. He still leads the team with 72 RBIs.
Youkilis is 0 for 11 with four strikeouts in his last three games. The slump has been uncharacteristic of the Red Sox, who ranked third in the majors in runs scored last year and were also third at the All-Star break.
Beckett (11-4, 3.42 ERA) allowed four runs in eight innings and suffered just his second loss in his last 14 starts Tuesday at Texas, but he hasn’t needed much support at home this year. He has won each of his last four starts at Fenway Park to improve to 6-0 with a 2.44 ERA there.
He allowed two runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 5-2 win over the A’s in Boston on July 7, then pitched a three-hit shutout at home against Kansas City five days later to close the season’s first half.
“I love pitching here,” Beckett said after beating Oakland. “It’s awesome to pitch in front of a full house every night.”
His dominance has helped Boston to a 33-15 home record, which remains the best in the AL. The Red Sox swept the A’s at Fenway last August and took two of three in the series earlier this month, scoring four runs in the sixth inning off the rookie Cahill for a 5-4 win in the decisive finale.
Cahill (6-8, 4.50) looked sharp for five innings in that game, however, and the 21-year-old right-hander is coming off one of his best outings. He was quickly staked to a big lead and pitched seven strong innings in a 16-1 win over Minnesota on Wednesday.
The last-place A’s (41-56) scored 32 runs while taking two of three from the Twins last week, but they dropped three of four at Yankee Stadium over the weekend to start their eight-game road trip against the top two teams in perhaps the best division in the majors.