Athletics-Red Sox Preview

The Associated Press

Their road trip didn't end well, but the Boston Red Sox return home in a much better spot than when they left Fenway Park.

The Oakland Athletics could have been in a better position entering this three-game series.

Boston looks to snap a five-game home losing streak Monday night when it faces an Athletics team coming off a heartbreaking defeat.

After winning six straight to begin their trip, the Red Sox (10-11) were held to three hits in Sunday's 4-1 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

Although Boston failed to move above .500 for the first time, the team has to feel better about its much-maligned bullpen, which allowed two runs in 17 innings on the trip. Red Sox relievers surrendered 28 runs and 33 hits in 17 1-3 innings while the club lost the final five games of its most recent homestand, capped by a huge meltdown in a 15-9 loss to the New York Yankees on April 21.

"This week it seemed like things were coming together nicely, mainly because of starting pitching," manager Bobby Valentine said. "The bullpen fell in nicely."

The Red Sox, in the midst of their longest home skid since a six-game slide April 6-19, 2010, have lost just five times in their last 22 home games versus Oakland (11-12).

However, giving the ball to Clay Buchholz (2-1, 8.87 ERA) in the series opener is no guarantee that Boston can maintain that home-field edge.

The right-hander has allowed five or more runs in each of his four starts, and his opponents have a .340 batting average.

"It's a struggle when you're out there throwing pitches and guys are putting it in play," Buchholz said after getting tagged for a season-high 10 hits in Wednesday's 7-6 victory at Minnesota. "It has to change."

Buchholz is 1-2 with a 7.84 ERA in five starts against the A's. It's his highest ERA against any team.

Oakland makes its only visit to Boston this season after dropping two of three at Baltimore over the weekend. The A's were 10-0 in games they led after eight innings before Sunday, when Bartolo Colon and Grant Balfour combined to allow all the Orioles' runs in the ninth during a 5-2 loss.

Oakland's ERA jumped from 2.68 to 3.11 after the team gave up 15 runs in its last two contests.

"Some games just don't work out for whatever reason, and today's the day," manager Bob Melvin said Sunday. "We just have to move past it."

Giving the ball to Tommy Milone (3-1, 2.00) could help the A's do that. The left-hander will make his first appearance against the Red Sox after striking out eight and walking one while winning his last two starts.

"Probably the best my arm has felt so far this year," Milone said Tuesday after tossing eight innings of three-hit ball in a 2-0 victory over the White Sox.

Milone, though, should be careful pitching to David Ortiz, the major league leader with a .531 home batting average. Ortiz hit .577 (15 for 26) with six doubles and two homers in seven games versus Oakland last season.

Boston won the season series 6-2, going 5-1 at home.

A's right fielder Josh Reddick is making his return to Fenway Park after the Red Sox traded him to Oakland in the offseason deal that got them closer Andrew Bailey - now injured - and outfielder Ryan Sweeney.

Sweeney had his nine-game hitting streak snapped Sunday, but he's batting .373 with 11 doubles - as many as he had last season with Oakland.

Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis is questionable after getting scratched from Sunday's lineup with back tightness.

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