Boston welcomes home baseball’s hottest club Friday night.
The following morning, the city will hail the NHL’s best team.
The day before Boston hosts the Bruins’ Stanley Cup victory parade, the AL East-leading Red Sox look to build on their best long road trip in 34 years and win for the 12th time in 13 games when they open a series against the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers at Fenway Park.
Boston (41-27) capped an 8-1 trip - the franchise’s best of at least nine games since 1977 - with Thursday’s 4-2 win over Tampa Bay. Adrian Gonzalez(notes) hit his 14th homer for the Red Sox, who improved to 11-1 since June 3.
“We feel like we are playing better baseball,” manager Terry Francona said. “I think that’s really what we need to stay focused on.”
Although Boston has pulled 1 1/2 games ahead of second-place New York in the East, its surge has been upstaged locally by the Bruins, who won their first Stanley Cup since 1972 on Wednesday.
While the Bruins have been grabbing the headlines, Gonzalez has been swinging a hot bat.
The first baseman is batting .414 with five homers, seven doubles and 16 RBIs in his last 15 games, and could be poised for another big series. In 34 career games against the Brewers, Gonzalez has eight homers, 25 RBIs and is batting .357 - his highest average against any NL club.
Milwaukee (39-31) arrives in Boston after dropping three of four to the Chicago Cubs, including a 12-7 loss Thursday. Prince Fielder(notes) went 1 for 10 with four strikeouts and seven walks in the series Wrigley Field.
The Brewers, owners of the majors’ fourth-worst road record at 14-22, face a Boston team that is an AL-best 11-4 at home since May 7. The Red Sox swept the Brewers at Fenway in 2008, and have won five of six meetings since Milwaukee switched from the AL to the NL in 1998. The Brewers haven’t won a game at Fenway since Sept. 5, 1997.
After this series, Milwaukee, one-game up on second-place St. Louis in the Central, returns home to play Tampa Bay and Minnesota before visiting the Yankees and Twins.
“It’s a rough schedule,” manager Ron Roenicke told the Brewers’ official website. “But the focus has really been on trying to play good baseball.”
Marcum, in his first season with Milwaukee after spending the previous four with Toronto, is among the NL leaders in wins, ERA and opponent batting average (.208). Against St. Louis on Sunday, the right-hander allowed three runs and five hits while striking out eight in seven innings of a 4-3 victory.
Marcum went 1-3 with a 5.34 ERA in five starts against the Red Sox last season.
Boston counters with John Lackey(notes) (4-5, 7.41), who has posted a 5.40 ERA while winning both of his starts since a 3 1/2-week stint on the disabled list with a right elbow strain. The right-hander posted a 14.34 ERA while dropping his two starts immediately before landing on the DL.
Lackey gave up four runs and six hits Saturday at Toronto while striking out a season-best eight in six innings of a 16-4 win.
“I felt like it was a step forward, still building some arm strength,” Lackey said.
Lackey is 14-5 with a 2.96 lifetime ERA in interleague play. He wasn’t as sharp against the NL in his first season with the Red Sox last year, going 2-1 with a 5.11 ERA in four starts.
This will be the 10-year veteran’s first appearance against the Brewers.