There’s not much negative that can be said about the Red Sox’s recent results.
Boston looks to match a season high with a sixth consecutive victory Friday night when the Atlanta Braves make their first visit to Fenway Park in three years.
Before the Red Sox (36-33) completed a three-game sweep of Miami with Thursday’s 6-5 victory, Ortiz fired back at a recent report that said the team’s clubhouse is “toxic.”
“I don’t know, man, I’m just tired of dealing with the drama here,” he told the Red Sox’s official website. “… It seems like everything that goes on around here is like one of those Congress decisions that will affect the whole nation. It’s not like that, man. This is baseball. We’re supposed to have fun, to have our performance out there at the highest level.”
Ortiz has been doing that, batting .375 with four homers and 11 RBIs to help Boston win seven of eight following a 1-7 skid.
The Red Sox, who won six straight from April 23-28, have an opportunity to move a season-best four games above .500 after rookie Will Middlebrooks homered for the second straight game and drove in four runs.
“I love to see guys growing and learning and excelling at the same time,” manager Bobby Valentine said of Middlebrooks, Daniel Nava and Ryan Kalish, who sparked a three-run, eighth-inning rally. “It’s, I guess, a perfect combination.”
The Red Sox will try to post their first six-game interleague winning streak since June 15-20, 2010, with Jon Lester (4-4, 4.53 ERA) on the hill.
The left-hander is looking to build off his first win in five starts, a 4-3 victory at Wrigley Field on Saturday when he gave up three runs - all coming on a Luis Valbuena homer - in 6 2-3 innings.
Lester, 1-2 with a 5.98 ERA in seven starts at Fenway Park this season, will try to avoid the long ball Friday when he faces the Braves for the first time getting his first win in his second major league start, a 4-1 victory at Atlanta on June 16, 2006.
Heyward is batting .400 (10 for 25) during a seven-game hitting streak. The team is 9-2 when he has two or more hits.
“We’re really, really good when Jason’s swinging the bat well,” catcher David Ross said.
The Braves (37-32) could use a good outing from Friday’s scheduled starter Jair Jurrjens (0-2, 9.37 ERA), who is scheduled to make his first appearance since April 23.
Sent down to Triple-A Gwinnett following four poor outings, the right-hander is back in the rotation - at least for now - with Brandon Beachy out for the season following Thursday’s Tommy John surgery.
“This could be a big pickup if (Jurrjens) goes back to the form he had last year (when he made the All-Star team),” manager Fredi Gonzalez told the Braves’ official website.
Jurrjens is 3-1 with a 1.34 ERA in eight career interleague starts. His only defeat against an AL team while pitching for the Braves was a 4-1 home loss to Boston on June 26, 2009. Five days earlier, the right-hander did not earn a decision after lasting 6 1-3 innings in a 6-5 loss at Fenway Park - Atlanta’s last game in Boston.
Ortiz hit a two-run shot off Jurrjens in that game and is 3 for 6 with two homers lifetime against the right-hander.