With Daisuke Matsuzaka(notes) on the mound for the first time since flirting with a no-hitter, the Red Sox hope to extend their longest winning streak of the season to six Thursday night as they begin a four-game set with the Royals.
Not only has Boston played 11 of its last 13 games on the road, but its last four series were against the reigning World Series champion Yankees and division leaders Minnesota, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay.
The Red Sox (27-21) have still managed to win eight of nine and five in a row, putting their mediocre start behind them. They became the first team to sweep major league-best Tampa Bay this week, outscoring the host Rays 19-4 in three games.
“We started out real slow and everybody kind of panicked,” second baseman Dustin Pedroia(notes) said after Wednesday’s 11-3 victory. “We have confidence we’re going to win a lot of games, and hopefully the way we’re playing will continue for a long time.”
David Ortiz(notes) and Adrian Beltre(notes) have keyed Boston’s run. Ortiz is 16 for 39 (.410) with six homers and 16 RBIs in his last 11 games, while Beltre has six multihit efforts in his last eight games, going 4 for 5 with two homers and six RBIs on Wednesday.
The team’s starting pitching has been arguably even more impressive. Boston starters have a 1.60 ERA in the last eight games after posting a 5.18 ERA before that.
Matsuzaka (3-1, 5.76 ERA) has allowed five or more runs three times since coming off the disabled list, but his other two outings have been brilliant.
“I’ve been going from one extreme to the other, but of course, I want to keep going in a good way,” Matsuzaka told the Red Sox’s official website through an interpreter. “On a good night like (Saturday), I’m able to pitch like I imagine and the pitches come out of my hand just like I picture. Without overthinking it too much, I just hope I can keep going in that direction.”
Matsuzaka struck out 10 Royals in his major league debut April 5, 2007, a total that still matches his career high. He’s posted a 2.84 ERA while winning both of his starts against Kansas City.
Butler went 2 for 4 with a home run in Wednesday’s 5-2 win over Texas, raising his average to .348 and helping Kansas City snap a three-game losing streak.
“It’s quite impressive to watch a young man have that good of an idea and that good of an eye and put together consistent good at-bats time after time after time,” said manager Ned Yost, who has gone 7-5 since taking over for Trey Hillman.
The right-hander is 0-4 with a 5.87 ERA in four overall starts against Boston, but he’ll be looking to win a third straight outing overall. He held Colorado to two runs in 7 1-3 innings of a 9-2 victory Friday night.