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Red Sox Look For Third Straight Series Win Against Depleted Indians

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The Cleveland Indians were not a good team one month ago. Now, without Austin Kearns, Kerry Wood, Jake Westbrook, and Jhonny Peralta (who destroyed Jon Lester single handed a few days ago) they are even worse. But as Peter Abraham pointed out, the Sox haven't exactly taken advantage of these weaker opponents this year:

The Orioles (32-73), Mariners (39-67), Indians (44-61) and Royals (45-60) are the worst teams in the American League and it's not even close. No other team in the league has a losing record.

Yet the Red Sox are somehow only 14-13 against this quartet of bums teams. Those four teams are playing .481 ball against the Sox, .373 against everybody else.

That has to change starting tonight for the Sox to continue the much-needed hot streak they have been on.

If there's one thing to watch for this series, it's the Red Sox' pitching. John Lackey, Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Daisuke Matsuzaka are all taking the mound before the Sox leave Fenway, and while there's not much doubt that Lester is and will continue to be the team's ace (his last seven or eight innings aside), how Daisuke and especially Lackey and Beckett do is another story entirely. Lately, Beckett and Lackey have started rounding into shape, with Beckett pitching two strong games off the DL and Lackey having the best month of his season so far. Daisuke, though only signed for another couple of years, has also been on something of a roll since June, and to see all three turn in strong performances should help remind us that we stand to have one of if not the best rotation in the majors for the immediate future.

For their part, the Indians lineup shouldn't put up a great deal of resistance outside of the three and four spots. Populated by a list of rookies, failed prospects, has-beens, and role players, the only real bats the Indians have to fear are Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Santana. Choo has been exactly what he has been for the last few years: a strong on-base threat with above average power and good defense in right. Not an out-and-out superstar, but a valuable player on any team. The new addition, and really the future of the Indians franchise lies in Carlos Santana, the power hitting rookie catcher who has lived up to expectations so far to the tune of a .265/.404/.476 line. He's slumped since his insane start in June, especially in power, but there's no reason to take Santana lightly.

The Indians' pitching lineup isn't exactly set wit Mitch Talbot heading to the disabled list, but the Red Sox know who to expect for the most part. First, there's the resurgent (and lucky) Fausto Carmona, who earlier this year held the Red Sox to three runs (two earned) despite allowing six walks. He can't expect to get away with a similar performance this time around, nor has he gotten away with mediocre pitching lately, as an 18:15 K:BB count in July lead to an ERA of 4.76.

On Wednesday, they'll see old friend Justin Masterson again, who hasn't faired well this year (a 5.55 ERA) or last month (6.32). Of course, he wasn't exactly on a hot streak when he tossed a complete game shutout against the Red Sox the last time they saw eachother. The Sox can't allow that to happen again this time around.

Finally, on Thursday, the Sox are likely to see Josh Tomlin, a rookie called up last month after a breakthrough season in Triple-A Columbus. He has middling stuff, and is mainly a fastball-slider pitcher, but has shown good results in his first two starts, shutting down the Yankees over seven innings and then allowing just one run to the Jays in five innings despite pitching on three days of rest.

Of course, it hasn't been the Red Sox' M.O. to score off of starters lately, so all the better that the Indians have one of the worst bullpens in the league. Sure, there are a few lucky arms like Chris Perez and Frank Hermann, but outside of Rafael Perez there's nobody the Sox should really worry about seeing on the mound. Unfortunately, they also can't rely on scoring a few off of Kerry Wood either.