The Boston Red Sox shook off a rough offensive series to open their four-game set with the Cleveland Indians in strong fashion. But given how they fared the last time they saw Justin Masterson, their lineup could be in for a challenge Friday night.
Boston (30-36) scored only one run while dropping two of three in Baltimore from Monday-Wednesday.
The Red Sox bounced back with 12 hits - including three with runners in scoring position, one more than they had totaled in three games against the Orioles - in a 5-2 home win over Cleveland on Thursday, just their third in 10 games.
"RBIs, runs scored, whether it's no outs, two outs, it was just good to get a little breathing room tonight," manager John Farrell said.
David Ortiz hit his 15th homer and has nine RBIs in his last eight games, though he's still batting just .159 over his last 24.
Masterson (4-4, 4.61 ERA) posted a 7.94 ERA while dropping three straight starts against the Red Sox before limiting them to three hits over seven scoreless innings with a season-high 10 strikeouts in a 3-2 victory on June 2. He followed that by yielding two runs in 5 2-3 innings of Sunday's 3-2 victory at Texas.
"Building off what we did last time, we made some good adjustments in between from my last start and wanted to continue those," said Masterson, who issued two walks after walking four versus Boston. "It's helped the effort level be good, to be more under control, to throw more strikes."
The right-hander is 2-1 with a 1.72 ERA over his last three starts with 19 strikeouts in 15 2-3 innings. He had given up 17 runs in 15 1-3 innings over his three previous outings.
The Indians (33-34), who swept three games from Boston last week, chose to rest Lonnie Chisenhall for the opener even though he was seeking his sixth straight multihit performance. Manager Terry Francona's decision was especially curious considering left-hander Jon Lester started for Boston and Chisenhall is 14 for 28 against southpaws.
Chisenhall, however, had played in each of the club's last 23 games.
"Lonnie's played a lot lately. Having him sitting over here ready to pinch-hit isn't bad, either," Francona told the team's official website. "I just kind of wanted to have some balance in our lineup with Lester."
Jason Kipnis owns a 10-game hitting streak after going 2 for 4 with two RBIs Thursday. He's also batting .361 in 16 career matchups with the Red Sox.
Nick Swisher was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts in his first game since May 26 after being sidelined due to a hyperextended left knee.
John Lackey (7-4, 3.18) followed his complete game loss at Cleveland opposite Masterson with eight strong innings in Sunday's 5-3 win at Detroit, allowing two earned runs. The only time he threw at least eight innings in three straight starts was Aug. 30-Sept. 10, 2009, with the Angels.
He's 4-5 with a 5.16 ERA in his last 11 matchups with the Indians and David Murphy is 10 for 22 against him.
A.J. Pierzynski is 14 for 38 versus Masterson.
The Red Sox have won 19 of the last 26 meetings in Boston, including seven of eight.