After winning 20 games and nearly capturing a fourth Cy Young Award last season, Pedro Martinez is slowly working his way back from an injury in what has thus far been a disappointing follow-up season.
Mark Buehrle doesn’t have anything to blame for his dismal campaign.
Buehrle, a 19-game winner last year, will try to snap a personal nine-game losing streak when the Chicago White Sox open a four-game interleague series with Martinez and the Boston Red Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
Martinez, who finished second to Oakland’s Barry Zito in last year’s AL Cy Young voting despite leading the league in ERA (2.26) and strikeouts (239), opened this season 4-2 with a 2.83 ERA in nine starts before being shelved for nearly a month due to a strained muscle on his right side.
He returned to the hill Thursday against St. Louis, tossing three scoreless innings in Boston’s 13-0 victory. Dating to his last start, a 12-3 win over Texas, Martinez has not yielded a run in his last nine innings.
“Everybody was just pumped up and we felt great. I felt great,” Martinez said. “Now I feel like I am back again to be part of the team and helping the team.”
Buehrle, who almost became the first White Sox pitcher to win 20 games since Jack McDowell in 1993 last year, is winless in 12 starts since beating Cleveland on April 10.
The 24-year-old left-hander was pounded for eight runs and six hits, including two homers, over 4 1-3 innings in Wednesday’s 11-4 loss to San Francisco.
“I know it’s tough for him to have this streak going,” White Sox manager Jerry Manuel said of Buehrle. “When he doesn’t pitch well we don’t pick him up. When he pitches well we don’t hit or we don’t defend. Hopefully things will turn around for him.”
Chicago, which had won five of its previous seven, finished with seven hits and stranded nine runners, including five in scoring position.
The Red Sox completed a weekend sweep of the Houston Astros with Sunday’s 3-2, 14-inning victory. Manny Ramirez singled home the winning run as Boston remained within a half game of the first-place New York Yankees in the tightly packed AL East.
STANDINGS: Red Sox - 2nd place, 1/2 GB, AL East. White Sox - 3rd place, 7 1/2 GB, AL Central.
RED SOX PROBABLE STARTER: Martinez (4-2, 2.70 ERA). Martinez has walked one batter or fewer in each of his last five starts. The hard-throwing right-hander is 6-2 with a 1.31 ERA in eight career starts against the White Sox.
WHITE SOX PROBABLE STARTER: Buehrle (2-10, 5.18 ERA). Buehrle has surrendered at least five runs in six of his last eight outings. He is 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in two career appearances, including one start, against the Red Sox.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Red Sox - Bill Mueller, .344 avg.; Ramirez, 14 HRs and 51 RBIs; Nomar Garciaparra, 59 runs; Johnny Damon, 12 SBs. White Sox - Frank Thomas, .280 avg. and 16 HRs; Carlos Lee, 41 RBIs, 34 runs and 7 SBs.
2002 SEASON SERIES: White Sox, 4-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Red Sox - SS Garciaparra had a career-high four extra-base hits Sunday, including his career-best 12th triple of the year to go with three doubles. … Boston manager Grady Little said RHP Ryan Rupe, recalled by the Red Sox on Friday from Triple-A Pawtucket, is expected to relieve RHP Martinez on Monday. The plan is for Martinez to go five innings. … Boston has won four of its last six on the road. White Sox - Like the rest of his teammates, 1B Thomas hasn’t had much career success against Martinez, managing just two hits in 21 at-bats for an .095 avg. … Chicago is 3-3 on its 10-game homestand. … The White Sox took two of three from the Red Sox at home last season.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Red Sox - 17-17 on the road; White Sox - 19-15 at home.
INJURIES: Red Sox - LHP Casey Fossum (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Chad Fox (oblique), 15-day DL; RHP Robert Person (hip), 15-day DL; RHP Ramiro Mendoza (knee), 15-day DL. White Sox - INF Willie Harris (shoulder), 15-day DL.