Red Sox-Astros series preview

August 14, 2014 - 3:12 pm

For seemingly the first time all season, the Red Sox will return to Fenway Park riding the momentum of a successful road trip. After posting a 5-3 record during an eight-game stretch away from home, Boston will open up an 11-game homestand with a four-game series against the Houston Astros. The Red Sox have found themselves on a bit of a roll, winning four out of their last five games. "Yeah, it was nice, a winning road trip," said first baseman Mike Napoli, who clobbered a two-run homer in the fifth helped Boston to a 5-4 victory over the Reds Wednesday. "We're playing better baseball. I feel like there were a couple games we could've came away with, too. We're playing better baseball, the young guys are learning and we're playing the game the right way. That's what we need." The Astros -€“- sitting at 50 wins on the year -- will be looking to match their victory total from last season during their series against Boston. Houston finished the 2013 campaign with a 51-101 record. Houston will be getting some reinforcements in the outfield, as center fielder Dexter Fowler played his first game in six weeks Wednesday after suffering a back injury June 26. "Whenever you are athletic and have three guys in the outfield capable of playing center field, we're improved -- cutting balls off, getting to them in the air," said Houston manager Bo Porter after Houston'€™s 3-1 loss to the Twins Wednesday. "You got a glimpse of that today." The Astros are 4-6 over their last 10 games and 1-2 against Boston this season. Here are the probable pitchers for the four-game series. Thursday: Allen Webster (2-1, 4.91 ERA) vs. Scott Feldman (6-8, 4.14 ERA) Friday: Clay Buchholz (5-7, 5.99 ERA) vs. Dallas Keuchel (10-8, 3.07 ERA) Saturday: Rubby De La Rosa (4-4, 3.21 ERA) vs. Brad Peacock (3-8, 5.25 ERA) Sunday: Joe Kelly (0-0, 2.08 ERA) vs. Colin McHugh (5-9, 3.08 ERA) Who'€™s Hot: Red Sox -- Rubby De La Rosa continues to distance himself from the rest of Boston'€™s younger group of pitchers by delivering consistent start after consistent start. The 25-year-old righty has rebounded from a poor outing against Toronto on July 24 (seven runs over four innings), posting a 2.37 ERA in his next three starts. De La Rosa has excelled at Fenway this season, compiling a 3-1 record with a 1.97 ERA in five starts. -- He may not have a win yet in a Red Sox uniform, but Joe Kelly has been a strong addition to the Red Sox rotation so far. Kelly, who will finally face an American League team for the first time as a member of the Red Sox, has posted a 2.08 ERA in two starts with Boston. -- Yoenis Cespedes continues to help power a Red Sox lineup that entered Thursday last in the AL in runs scored (452). The Cuban outfielder has driven in eight runs over his last four games and has reached base in all 10 of his games with Boston. It will be interesting to see if the right hand contusion that forced Cespedes to leave Wednesday'€™s game will have any impact on him going forward. Who'€™s Hot: Astros -- Starter Scott Feldman has managed to string together three straight impressive starts for Houston, surrendering just five earned runs over his last 22 1/3 innings, including a complete game against the Blue Jays on Aug. 3. -- There might not be a hotter hitter in baseball than Houston designated hitter Chris Carter. The 27-year-old slugger has driven in a run in seven-straight games and leads MLB with 37 RBIs since July 1. In the 24 games following the All-Star break, Carter is batting .315 with nine home runs and 27 RBIs. Who'€™s Not: Red Sox -- He may have finally collected his first hit since July 26 during Boston'€™s last game Wednesday against Cincinnati, but Jackie Bradley Jr. is still mired in a massive slump. Over his last 14 games, Bradley is hitting a paltry .029 with 17 strikeouts. -- Will Middlebrooks has done little to disprove some of his doubters since coming off the disabled list Aug. 1, batting just .133 with 1 RBI over his last nine games. Since Boston'€™s 19-inning loss to the Angels Saturday, Middlebrooks is 1-for-15 with seven strikeouts. -- While he continues to show great presence behind the plate, catcher Christian Vazquez has gone hitless in his last 13 at-bats, dating back to Friday'€™s 4-2 win against the Angels. Despite his low average (.217), Vazquez has been a consistent run producer, notching 11 RBIs in just 21 games this season. Who'€™s Not: Astros -- He may only be 22 years old and still projects as a promising talent, but first baseman Jon Singleton has endured his fair share of struggles at the plate this season, posting a .188/.282/.372 line in 62 games this season. Singleton has struck out in 39 percent of his at-bats this season. -- While he may command electric stuff (62K/45IP), reliever Josh Fields has struggled in August, posting a 14.54 ERA in five appearances this month. The right-hander has allowed at least two earned runs in three of his five outings this month.