Astros-Red Sox Preview

The Associated Press

The Boston Red Sox believe John Lackey is ready to put his recent physical problems behind him.

Lackey will return after being out with a right biceps strain as he tries to help the Red Sox complete a four-game home sweep of the Houston Astros with a fifth straight win Sunday.

Lackey (0-1, 4.15 ERA) suffered the injury in his season debut April 6 against Toronto in his first outing in two years after Tommy John surgery.

The right-hander threw 67 pitches over 3 2-3 innings Monday for Double-A Portland, and the Red Sox (17-7) feel he will be fine Sunday.

"Based on the game pitched, and the bullpen that followed, there's been no symptoms that have reoccurred," manager John Farrell told the Red Sox's official website. "The fact is, when he felt it up in Toronto, I think it was just getting to an arm speed and a velocity that he hasn't experienced in probably two years."

Farrell said that Lackey will be on a pitch count, and the starter probably isn't expected to go past five innings at the most.

"The stress of each of the pitches thrown are going to have some impact on the decision of how deep he can go into tomorrow's game," Farrell said.

Lackey's lone start against Houston (7-17) came in 2007. Only one current Astros hitter has more than one at-bat against him - Carlos Pena, who is 8 for 30 with three homers and nine walks.

David Ortiz is hitting .519 with two homers nine RBIs in seven games since returning last Saturday from a heel injury. He owns a 19-game hit streak dating to 2012, after finishing with two hits and three RBIs in Saturday's 8-4 victory.

"He's doing things that look to him to be very easy, but its hard to imagine or even script out that he'd have this kind of performance considering the layoff,'' Farrell said.

Ortiz has never faced Astros starter Bud Norris (3-2, 4.13), who takes the mound Sunday to try to improve on his poor road record. Norris has the most road defeats in the majors since the start of 2012 with a 4-13 mark and a road ERA of 6.95 compared to 1.90 at home in that span.

Norris allowed one run in five innings Tuesday to earn a 3-2 home win over Seattle.

The Red Sox hitter with the most experience against the right-hander is Stephen Drew, who is 5 for 9. Drew is hitting just .136 this year.

Boston, which can match the club record for April victories from 1998 and 2003, is batting .355 with five homers among 23 extra-base hits in this win streak. The Red Sox are off to their best start since 2002.

Dustin Pedroia is 8 for 16 over the last four games for Boston. Fellow second baseman Jose Altuve of the Astros is 5 for 24 in his last six games with his average dropping to .340.

Only Miami has a worse record than Houston, which has lost eight straight on the road.

"I don't get caught up in the record,'' manager Bo Porter said. "I deal with each day, each game, one game at a time."

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