After being swept by the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway, the last thing the Red Sox need is a three-game series against the Texas Rangers on the road. In happier news, though, at least Jon Lester isn't starting any of the games.
The Red Sox are at .500 again, in last place in the AL East, with less than 10 days to go before the July 31 trade deadline. They're 3-1/2 games back of Angels, Orioles, and Athletics, who are in a three-way tie separated by mere percentage points for the two wild card spots. In front of Boston, but behind the leaders, are the White Sox, Rays, and the Jays, who leapfrogged the Sox this weekend in that three-day drubbing.
It's not the end of days, given it's July, and Sox fans know as well as anyone that playoff spots aren't earned or lost until the math says so. But there's something disheartening about having fewer teams behind you than in front of you, and unless things get better starting tonight, that feeling isn't going to dissipate.
Game 1: Scott Feldman (55 IP, 2.4 K/BB, 76 ERA+) vs. Felix Doubront (102 IP, 2.6 K/BB, 102 ERA+)
Game 2: Colby Lewis (105 IP, 6.6 K/BB, 130 ERA+) vs. Clay Buchholz (100-2/3 IP, 2.0 K/BB, 83 ERA+)
Game 3: Derek Holland (87-1/3 IP, 2.3 K/BB, 92 ERA+) vs. Josh Beckett (101-1/3 IP, 2.9 K/BB, 95 ERA+)
Felix Doubront didn't give up a homer in his last start, giving him two-straight since the break without a long ball. That had been a problem for him heading into the midpoint, and it could very well be a problem again on Monday, given the strong Rangers' lineup combined with that hitter-friendly home park. It doesn't help that it's late July, and heading into the time of year where Arlington is a pitcher's nightmare thanks to the heat of late summer.
He'll take on Scott Feldman, who has had to utilize his spot-starting abilities far more in 2012 than he did in 2011. Feldman is fifth on the Rangers in games started thanks to the various injuries to what was a very strong Opening Day rotation. He hasn't pitched very well, though, reminding people why he's the backup, and not the initial plan.
Colby Lewis against Clay Buchholz should be a good one, as you can see from Lewis' numbers above, and Buchholz's own since May 16: 3.21 ERA, 61-2/3 innings, 7.6 strikeouts per nine, 2.0 walks per nine, 3.7 K/BB, and just five homers allowed after giving up 10 in his first seven starts. Things didn't start out well for Buchholz, but he's brough his ERA down from 9.09 to 5.19, and more than doubled his K/BB in the same stretch.
Derek Holland and Beckett face off in a match-up of which pitcher can tease their fans more. Both are a little below average, hurting their teams with inconsistency at a time when they need anything but in their respective rotations. Watch this one be a pitcher's duel, while the previous evening's game turns into an offensive rout.
Unless this is your first baseball series ever, you're likely aware that both the Rangers and Red Sox can hit, and often. Neither is utilizing their strongest portion of the rotation in this series, except for in one contest, and it's late July, meaning we just might see a whole lot of runs this time around. If the starters get beat up, both clubs are also well equipped in the bullpen departments to clean up any messes.
The version of the Red Sox lineup taking on the Rangers this time around is at least closer to the true talent level they're supposed to have, but without David Ortiz around, things might still be tough given how loaded the Rangers also are. Texas isn't at full strength either, though, with Mitch Moreland on the DL, and Yorvit Torrealba doing the catching full-time while Mike Napoli lines up at first. Despite this, expect runs, from both sides.