The Boston Red Sox seem to have some key factors in place as they hope to gain a four-game split with the Seattle Mariners.
The Red Sox tend to score plenty of runs with Felix Doubront on the mound, and own the AL's best record against left-handed starters entering their matchup with Jason Vargas in Sunday's series finale at Safeco Field.
Boston (41-37) has dropped two of the first three in this set as the clubs have totaled only 11 runs – seven for the visitors.
There's a good chance the Red Sox will break out Sunday since Doubront (8-4, 4.54 ERA) is receiving a major league-best average of 8.44 runs in support. He's 5-1 with a 3.19 ERA in seven road starts, and has received a decision in 12 straight outings.
The left-hander's last one didn't go smoothly, as he yielded a career-high seven runs over six innings Monday in a 9-6 home loss to Toronto.
This is Doubront's first career start against the Mariners (34-46), having thrown 1 1-3 innings of scoreless relief against them Aug 25, 2010.
Boston is 17-9 against left-handed starters, including a win over Vargas (7-7, 4.54) on May 14, when he gave up five runs over six innings of a 6-1 loss at Fenway Park. Vargas fell to 1-2 with a 4.26 ERA in four career starts against the Red Sox.
The left-hander was dominant Tuesday against Oakland, matching a career high with 10 strikeouts in 6 2-3 innings and allowing two runs before leaving without a decision in Seattle's 3-2 victory. It was a marked improvement from his previous outing, when he surrendered a career-worst 10 runs – including five homers – against Arizona.
"You could tell right from the beginning of the ballgame that he was more aggressive," manager Eric Wedge said of Tuesday's start.
David Ortiz, still seeking his 400th career home run, is 3 for 9 with no homers against Vargas. He has three hits in 13 at-bats without going deep in this series.
Boston starters had thrown 21 consecutive scoreless innings before John Jaso's two-run double off Josh Beckett in the sixth of Saturday's 3-2, 11-inning victory for the Mariners. Chone Figgins won it with a sacrifice fly.
Vargas will be under pressure to provide significant innings. The Mariners bullpen was forced to work 8 1-3 innings Saturday after Erasmo Ramirez left with an undisclosed injury after retiring the first eight batters. Seattle's relievers improved to 5-1 with a 1.91 ERA in the club's last 17 games.
"We used all but one guy down in our bullpen and kept them in tow and really that was the story of the ballgame,'' Wedge said.
Wedge called a team meeting to discuss Seattle's poor offense after Aaron Cook's 81-pitch, two-hitter in Boston's 5-0 victory Friday. The Mariners' .199 home average remains the worst in the major leagues.
Boston hasn't fared too much better at the plate in this series, going 2 for 21 with runners in scoring position.
Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is batting .370 during a season-high 11-game hitting streak. He's 5 for 13 in this series, but has not driven in a run.
Dustin Pedroia, meanwhile, is 1 for 12 in this series and his .229 career average versus Seattle is tied for his lowest against any AL opponent. He's 1 for 8 lifetime off Vargas.