With the trade deadline fast approaching, the 48-48 Boston Red Sox will start their toughest stretch of the season on the road against the 56-38 Texas Rangers from July 23 to 25. After being swept by the Toronto Blue Jays and replacing them in last place in the AL East, the Red Sox will play nine straight games against first place teams.
While the Rangers enter the series battling a scoring slump, they rank first in the American League in team on-base percentage (.339) and second in slugging percentage (.445). They're batting .239 with a .663 OPS and 3.13 runs per game in July, contributing to a 6-9 record in the month. While the Red Sox certainly miss David Ortiz's presence in the lineup, it is their starting pitching that has again let them down and dropped them back to the .500 mark. Facing the Rangers' lineup, even in the midst of a slump, is not what the doctor ordered.
July 23: Felix Doubront (4.24 ERA, 99/38 K/BB) vs. Scott Feldman (5.89 ERA, 39/16 K/BB)
After a rough patch approaching the season's midpoint, Doubront tossed quality starts entering the break and coming out of it. He ranks sixth in the AL with 8.74 strikeouts per nine innings. Feldman will make the start in the opener in place of Roy Oswalt. Feldman has a 6.46 ERA and seven home runs allowed in ten starts on the season. Despite leaning heavily on his sinker, his groundball rate is currently the lowest of any season in his career. Current Red Sox have a .300 average and .511 slugging percentage in 90 at-bats against Feldman.
July 24: Clay Buchholz (5.19 ERA, 72/36 K/BB) vs. Colby Lewis (3.43 ERA, 93/14 K/BB)
With Jon Lester and Josh Beckett continuing to struggle, Buchholz stepped up since his rough start to the season. Over his last ten starts, Buchholz boasts a 3.31 ERA and 3.06 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Lewis held opponents to two or fewer earned runs in five of his last six starts. He walked more than two batters only once in 16 starts on the year.
July 25: Josh Beckett (4.53 ERA, 79/27 K/BB) vs. Derek Holland (4.84 ERA, 67/29 K/BB)
Beckett's first inning troubles continued against the Blue Jays as he once again dug a hole for the lineup before they could step to the plate. He allowed four or more earned runs four times in his last seven starts. One of Holland's best starts of the season came in Boston on April 18, when he held the Red Sox to two runs and struck out seven in seven innings. In three starts since returning from the DL, he posted nine runs, eight strikeouts, and five walks in 20.1 innings.
Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers, Yahoo! Sports
MLB Stats, ESPN.com
William Menna is a native New Englander and longtime Boston sports fan.
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