Red Sox-Dodgers Preview

The Associated Press

There seems to be no slowing down the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The slumping Boston Red Sox will try again after failing in their first attempt.

Baseball's hottest team looks to win its fifth straight overall and eighth in a row at home Saturday against the now second-place Red Sox.

A return to interleague play did nothing to cool the Dodgers (76-52), who rode a stellar performance from Ricky Nolasco and Hanley Ramirez's two-run homer to a 2-0 victory over the Red Sox on Friday in the opener of this marquee series.

The Dodgers earned their major league-leading 18th shutout of the season while improving to 46-10 since June 22. They opened a 10 1/2 game lead in the NL West, their biggest margin since holding the same lead on Sept. 28, 1977.

Nolasco was just the latest Dodgers starter to impress. Their rotation has posted a 1.24 ERA during the four-game win streak and has a 2.47 ERA over their last 56 games, a half-run better than anyone else in the majors.

"We've been playing great," Nolasco said. "We're just staying with our focus no matter what the opponent is. We know how big it is to keep our 'A' game going."

Their 10 shutouts over that stretch are one more than second-place Milwaukee.

"As you get deeper into the season, these guys start dominating," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.

In the first game between these teams since they pulled off one of the biggest trades in baseball history on Aug. 25, the current Dodgers exacted a small measure of revenge. Besides Ramirez's homer, Carl Crawford went 2 for 3 with a run scored against his former team and is 8 for 24 during a six-game hitting streak.

Ramirez is batting .371 with seven RBIs and nine runs in nine games against the AL this season.

Boston (75-55), meanwhile, lost for the sixth time in nine games and dropped percentage points behind Tampa Bay in the AL East.

''We're catching them as hot as they can be and we're definitely not as hot as we can be," outfielder Daniel Nava said. "Hopefully, tomorrow that will be the start of that for us.''

The Red Sox were shut down Friday after they scored 12 runs in a rout of San Francisco on Wednesday, continuing an inconsistent trend from their offense. Boston has scored three runs or fewer five times over the past nine games while totaling 31 runs in the other four contests.

David Ortiz is 0 for his last 11 with four strikeouts and Dustin Pedroia has two RBIs in his last 15 games.

Offense won't be easy to come by again with Hyun-Jin Ryu (12-4, 2.95 ERA) on the mound Saturday for Los Angeles.

The left-hander is 4-1 with a 1.87 ERA in his last five starts, walking four and striking out 30 over 33 2-3 innings. He's been even better at home, going 6-1 with a 1.78 ERA in 11 starts at Chavez Ravine.

The Dodgers had won nine straight Ryu starts until he allowed three runs and six hits over 7 1-3 innings in a 6-2 loss at Miami on Monday.

He'll be opposed by fellow southpaw Jon Lester (11-7, 4.09), who has a 0.94 ERA in his last four road starts with no homers allowed. That's in stark contrast to his first 13 starts away from Fenway Park, when he posted a 5.61 ERA while surrendering 12 home runs.

Lester's road success carried into San Francisco on Monday, as he allowed six hits over 8 1-3 innings of a 7-0 victory.

"Jon threw the ball," Pedroia said. "It was unbelievable. It seems like we were barely on defense."

Lester was lifted after 115 pitches, his third straight game with 114-plus pitches.

Since allowing six runs on a season-worst 11 hits to Arizona on Aug. 2, Lester has posted a 1.25 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a .210 batting average.

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