All season long, the Boston Red Sox have tried to recapture their World Series-winning form from 2018 with mixed results.
Perhaps a series against their Fall Classic opponent could finally light the spark.
The Red Sox come out of the All-Star break to host the Los Angeles Dodgers for a three-game set beginning Friday. The rematch is the first time the two teams have met since October, when Boston won the best-of-seven series 4-1 for its fourth championship since 2004.
"We'll be ready for the Red Sox," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters prior to the break. "No gathering or message to the team to rally the troops. We know what to do."
Los Angeles ended the first half on a three-game skid but still leads the majors with 60 wins. The break served only to strengthen the team as shortstop Corey Seager and first baseman David Freese are off the injured list. Both were sidelined by left hamstring strains.
Offseason acquisition A.J. Pollock also is expected to return for the series. The center fielder is on rehab assignment with High-A Rancho Cucamonga as he looks to battle back from right elbow inflammation that has kept him out since April 28.
Boston, meanwhile, entered the break riding a four-game win streak. Still, its 49-41 record is well off its 61-29 mark through the first 90 games of last season, and the club's only move over the break was parting ways with ineffective reliever Tyler Thornburg.
"I think for as bad as everyone says it's been and this and that, if you really look at it, it hasn't been that bad," Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez told reporters during All-Star media availability. "Last year, in my opinion, was an extreme, and to have those expectations to come back and do exactly that, that's pretty tough. I think we've done a really good job of giving ourselves a chance for the second half and putting ourselves in a position where we can make the playoffs."
The Red Sox are said to be on the hunt for pitching ahead of this month's trade deadline as they rank in the middle of the pack in the American League with a 4.59 ERA as a team. The Dodgers lead the National League in that mark at 3.37.
On the other side, Boston is tied for the major league lead in runs scored (509) and batting average (.272) while Los Angeles is seventh and eighth in those respective categories (480, .263).
Rodriguez has been up-and-down for Boston this year, though he hasn't lost since June 9. The southpaw threw five strong innings against the Detroit Tigers his last time out, allowing one run on four hits.
During last year's World Series, Rodriguez twice faced the Dodgers out of the bullpen with success before starting Game 4 and giving up four runs in 5 2/3 innings in an eventual victory. He has faced Los Angeles once in the regular season, giving up three runs in 4 1/3 innings of a start in 2016.
Maeda is 0-3 in his last six starts and hasn't won a decision since May 31 against Philadelphia. He gave up three runs on four hits in 7 2/3 innings against San Diego in his last start on July 6.
Maeda made three relief appearances against Boston in the World Series, posting a 3.00 ERA with six strikeouts in three innings.
--Field Level Media