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Athletics-Red Sox Preview

AP - Sports

It's still early May, but the Boston Red Sox are at the bottom of the AL East this late in a season for the first time in 16 years.

Struggles at Fenway Park are playing a role in that.

The Red Sox try to win for just the second time in over two weeks at home Wednesday night when they conclude this three-game series with the Oakland Athletics.

Boston (11-12) is in unfamiliar territory in the cellar in the AL East, trailing fourth-place Toronto by 1 1/2 games. It's the first time the Red Sox have been at the bottom of the division at this point in a season since they were 6-17 in 1996.

Their difficult start to 2012 is partly due to a 4-6 home record, which includes losing six of the last seven as host after beating Tampa Bay on April 15.

Boston's only win since came in the opener of this series Monday, beating Oakland 11-6. However, the club followed that up with a 5-3 defeat Tuesday - just its second loss in eight home meetings with the A's.

Despite going 0 for 4 on Tuesday, David Ortiz can't be blamed for the Red Sox's struggles at Fenway since he's batting .487 with four homers and 13 RBIs there.

The All-Star designated hitter, among baseball's leaders with a .386 average, is hitting .514 with four homers and 10 RBIs in his past 10 games versus the A's.

Daniel Bard (2-2, 3.72), a converted reliever, is scheduled to take the mound in search of a third consecutive win.

The right-hander got his first career victory as a starter Friday, allowing three runs and six hits with six strikeouts in seven innings of a 10-3 win at Chicago. He was credited with a 6-5 victory at Minnesota four days prior, but that came in a more familiar role out of the bullpen while getting two outs in the eighth on 11 pitches.

Bard has no record and one save while allowing one run and eight hits with 13 strikeouts in 14 innings over 14 relief outings against Oakland.

Oakland is trying to win its first series at Fenway since taking two of three from July 27-29, 2009.

The A's will give the ball to Brandon McCarthy (1-3, 3.23), who is looking to build on his first victory of the season by beating Boston for the first time in almost seven years.

The right-hander is 0-3 with an 8.83 ERA in six games - three starts - against Red Sox since winning his first start against them with the Chicago White Sox at Fenway on Sept. 5, 2005. Despite the lengthy winless drought, he hasn't faced them since a loss with Texas on Sept. 7, 2008.

McCarthy was impressive in his most recent trip to the mound and got some help for a change. He yielded two runs and five hits in seven innings of a 5-2 win at Baltimore on Friday after being backed by seven total runs over his previous five starts.

"Any time we can go out and get a few early and then hopefully the pitcher settles in and does his job, the game moves faster and kind of puts you in a positive mind set early," McCarthy said.

Jemile Weeks will try to build on his two hits and two RBIs from Tuesday, ending on 0-for-12 slump. The second baseman is 7 for 20 with two doubles in five games against the Red Sox, but has never faced Bard.

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