Red Sox-Athletics Preview

The Associated Press

The Boston Red Sox are scuffling at the plate, and they may be without Will Middlebrooks awhile.

Josh Reddick hasn't had much trouble swinging the bat against his former team.

With Middlebrooks possibly headed for the disabled list, the Red Sox will try to break out of a brief slump and rebound from a loss to Reddick and the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night.

Boston (42-38) is among the top offensive teams in the majors, ranking second to Texas with 5.09 runs per game, but the Red Sox have hit .215 while totaling 10 runs and losing three of five to begin this West Coast trip.

Those struggles continued in the opener of this three-game series, as the lineup mustered six hits - five singles - in a 6-1 loss at Oakland (39-42) on Monday.

Middlebrooks sat out with an injured hamstring, and he's expected to miss a few more games - with a DL stint possible. The rookie third baseman has given Boston a boost by batting .298 with 10 homers and 37 RBIs in 48 games, prompting the team to trade Kevin Youkilis.

Reddick may be making the Red Sox wish they hadn't traded him. The right fielder homered in the series opener and is 5 for 15 with two homers and five RBIs in four games against Boston, which dealt him to the A's in the offseason with two minor leaguers for closer Andrew Bailey and right fielder Ryan Sweeney, both currently on the DL.

"It's always going to be something special to do well against these guys," said Reddick, who leads Oakland with 19 homers and 41 RBIs after totaling 10 and 37, respectively, during limited playing time over the previous three years with the Red Sox.

He's 7 for 14 with three homers and seven RBIs in his last four home games.

Jon Lester (5-5, 4.53 ERA) is scheduled to face his former teammate for the first time as he looks to continue his success on the road.

The left-hander is 3-1 with a 2.92 ERA in his last four games as the visitor. He is 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA in four starts at Oakland, but he hasn't pitched there since April 13, 2009.

He'll be contending with an A's lineup that has homered in 13 consecutive games.

Lester is coming off his second win in three starts, but he got plenty of help from the offense in Wednesday's 10-4 home victory over Toronto. He was staked to a six-run lead after two innings, pitching seven and allowing four runs and seven hits - two homers.

"It takes some pressure off," Lester told the team's official website. "It's big to have our offense go out there and do that. You can't ask for more from those guys."

That game included the latest homer from David Ortiz, who has 399 for his career. He's 4 for 20 in five games since.

Ortiz is just 5 for 43 (.116) with one homer and 15 strikeouts in his career against Bartolo Colon, who is expected to return from a stint on the disabled list with a strained oblique to start Tuesday.

The right-hander suffered the injury June 17 against San Diego. Colon (6-7, 4.22) allowed one run in two-plus innings in that game but got the loss, falling to 1-5 with a 6.98 ERA in Oakland this year.

He went 0-2 with a 3.00 ERA in three games - two starts - against the Red Sox last year while pitching for the New York Yankees.

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