Red Sox-Diamondbacks series preview

August 02, 2013 - 10:36 am

The Red Sox welcome the Diamondbacks to Fenway this weekend, looking to maintain their division lead and keep up their winning ways after a three-game sweep of the Mariners. It was a wild night at Fenway on Thursday, when the Red Sox scored six times in the bottom of the ninth inning to steal a victory from the Mariners, winning on a Daniel Nava single after notching six hits in the frame. It was technically the club'€™s second walkoff in one day, since their 15-inning contest on Wednesday didn'€™t end until after midnight, though it ended the same way: with a walk-off celebration. With the win on Thursday, the Red Sox took a one-game lead over the second-place Rays. The deficit was the biggest the Red Sox have overcome this season, and it gave them their 11th walkoff win of the season. The game was reminiscent of the Mother'€™s Day Miracle in 2007, which is the last time the Red Sox overcame a deficit of that size in the ninth inning. "Is it magical? It's a lot of fun. Is it magical? I'll leave that up to you to decide," Nava said. "I don't think anyone saw that happening tonight." The Red Sox made one of the biggest splashes at the July 31 trade deadline, dealing shortstop Jose Iglesias and three lower-level prospects for starter Jake Peavy. Peavy will make his debut in a Boston uniform Saturday. It will be a return to Fenway for outfielder Cody Ross, who was one of the few bright spots in the Red Sox 2012 season. His new team, the Diamondbacks, sit 3½ games behind the red-hot Dodgers in what used to be a tight NL West race. After losing four of their last five games and dropping to 55-53, the Diamondbacks slipped from a half-game back and haven'€™t held the division lead since July 21 after spending more than two months in first place. It'€™s been a little while since the Diamondbacks have visited Fenway Park, last coming to Boston in 2010, when the Red Sox swept them in a three-game series. The Sox have taken five straight against Arizona and are 7-5 all-time against them. "We know we'll have a tough series," Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. "I've played quite a few games at Fenway Park myself. It's kind of exciting, but at the same time, you've got to be able to dig in and have staying power. The games can be pretty exhausting." Here are the matchups for the three-game weekend set. Friday: Jon Lester (10-6, 4.27) vs. Randall Delgado (3-3, 2.85) Saturday: Jake Peavy (8-4, 4.28) vs. Patrick Corbin (12-2, 2.24) Sunday: Felix Doubront (7-5, 3.77) vs. Brandon McCarthy (2-4, 5.00) WHO'S HOT: RED SOX '€¢ The Red Sox have had something special going late in games this season. They lead the majors with 11 walkoff wins, including the two in a row against the Mariners. Though Red Sox hitters are batting only .195 in extra innings and .262 in the ninth inning, they'€™ve drawn a total of 59 walks, good for an OBP of .360 in the ninth and .311 in extras. But it'€™s the Red Sox bullpen that deserves a huge chunk of the credit when it comes to the club'€™s ability to create late-inning magic. Red Sox pitchers have posted a 2.98 ERA in the ninth inning while allowing just seven runs in 25 2/3 extra innings. It was a combination of Koji Uehara, Matt Thornton, Craig Breslow and Drake Britton to keep the Sox in the game on Wednesday, while Steven Wright, just called up from Triple-A, threw three scoreless innings to make the team'€™s ninth-inning heroics possible. '€¢ By looking at his numbers from the past four games, it seems like Jonny Gomes hasn'€™t contributed much this homestand. He'€™s 1-for-7 with one RBI. But Gomes drew a key walk in the 15th inning of Wednesday night'€™s 15-inning affair, forcing the bases loaded for Stephen Drew, who knocked in the winning run. His one hit in the series came in a huge spot in the ninth inning of Thursday'€™s crazy come-from-behind victory, when he singled in the tying run after getting down 0-2 and fighting his way back to a 3-2 count. But the aspect of Gomes'€™ contributions that the box score doesn'€™t reflect is his defense, which has been stellar this entire season. Gomes made a few crucial plays in the two walkoff wins, with an extremely rare seven unassisted double play in the top of the 15th Wednesday, when he made a diving grab to record one out before trotting into the infield and touching second to finish the double play. He also made a leaping catch against the Green Monster on Thursday, crashing into the scoreboard. Gomes, who wasn'€™t particularly known for his defense in the past, has been more than solid for the Red Sox in the field and has made his fair share of outstanding plays. As he often says, '€œThere are two 'L's in this game: leather and lumber. And you'€™ve got to bring both.'€ '€¢ Slump: over! After going 3-for-39 in 10 games before the beginning of the homestand, Dustin Pedroia seems to have broken out of his cold streak with a 5-for-14 series against the Mariners, hitting two home runs and driving in seven in the three games. The second baseman also drew two walks during the series, equal to his total from the previous 10 games. The slump caused Pedroia'€™s average to fall below .300 for the first time since May 7, and he'€™s hitting .296/.375/.415 in 109 games. He'€™s one of only five players in the majors to have played in 109 games already. WHO'S HOT: DIAMONDBACKS '€¢ In only his second full year in the majors, Corbin has become one of this year'€™s most dominant pitchers. Coming into play on Friday, Corbin'€™s 2.24 ERA ranks as the third lowest in the majors, lower than any American League starter'€™s ERA. He went 9-0 to kick off the season before suffering his first loss on July 2, but since that loss Corbin has given up only one earned run in each of his last four starts, good for a 1.26 ERA. In that time, he'€™s recorded 34 strikeouts while issuing only six walks, while opposing hitters are batting only .189/.239/.264 against him. He suffered his second loss in his last outing, a tough-luck 1-0 defeat at the hands of the Padres. On the season, the 24-year-old, who was one of the club'€™s two All-Star representatives along with first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, is 12-2 with a 0.991 WHIP in 21 starts, striking out an average of 7.7 batters per nine innings while walking an average of 2.2. '€¢ Martin Prado was struggling in his first year with the Diamondbacks, coming over from Atlanta in the trade that sent Justin Upton to the Braves. Prado was hitting only .246/.296/.348, disappointing numbers for the former All-Star who owned a .796 OPS in 2012. But Prado, who has played just about anywhere the Diamondbacks have needed him to this season, has kicked it up a notch in the past couple of weeks, hitting .386/.440/.591 in his past 12 games with four doubles, a triple and a home run. He'€™s also drawn five walks while striking out only once in 50 plate appearances. The 29-year-old raised his line to .265/.316/.386 through 104 games, belting 20 doubles and nine home runs. '€¢ Eric Chavez is proving that he'€™s a hitter that gets better with age. The 35-year-old is enjoying a fine season with Arizona, though he missed a month earlier in the year with an oblique strain. Over his last eight games, Chavez has driven in eight runs and is hitting .345 with a double, triple and two home runs. Though he'€™s played in only 58 games due to the injury and with his playing time limited slightly due to the risk of injury given his history, Chavez has been very productive, batting .305/.352/.542 with nine home runs, 11 doubles and two triples. WHO'S NOT: RED SOX '€¢ Ryan Dempster has hit a rough patch, giving up seven earned runs in Thursday'€™s contest, going six innings while walking five and allowing nine hits. In his last four starts, he'€™s pitched to a 7.20 ERA, allowing five or more runs (albeit, not always five or more earned runs) in three of those last four appearances. He'€™s also issued 12 walks while striking out 18 batters. After a string of starts in which he allowed three earned runs or less in seven straight starts, Dempster'€™s recent string of tough outings has caused his ERA to rise to 4.54 and his WHIP to 1.496 in 127 innings. Despite the cold streak, Dempster has not lost a game since June 19. '€¢ It was not a good homestand for Mike Napoli, who went 1-for-13 with two walks and seven strikeouts, playing in three of the four games. After heating up for a brief stretch during the last couple of series at Fenway, Napoli'€™s most recent stretch of games have been less than productive, with three hits (two of them were doubles) and one RBI in his last six games, while he fanned 12 times in 27 plate appearances. Napoli has come close to taking over as the majors leader in strikeouts, but the Astros'€™ Chris Carter, with 144, has four more. Napoli is batting .257/.341/.459 on the season, ranking second on the team in slugging percentage and first in doubles with 28. '€¢ It was a blown save from reliever Junichi Tazawa that propelled Wednesday night'€™s contest into extra innings, when he allowed a home run to Kyle Seager in the top of the eighth. The righty has shown flashes of dominance throughout the year but has given up earned runs in two straight outings, while he gave up runs in four of his 10 appearances last month. In his last 11 games, Tazawa has compiled a 5.23 ERA and allowed two home runs in 10 1/3 innings. In 46 1/3 innings this season, Tazawa has posted a 3.11 ERA and 1.230 WHIP, striking out 51 batters but walking only eight. WHO'S NOT: DIAMONDBACKS '€¢ Outfielder Jason Kubel has been going through a particularly rough stretch at the plate, batting just .087/.173/.196 in his last 18 games, striking out 16 times and driving in only two runs. Kubel has seen his playing time cut back some after getting in 571 plate appearances last season, with the addition of Ross and the good performance of players such as A.J. Pollock and Gerardo Parra. Kubel hasn'€™t been hot with the bat the entire season, batting .226/.303/.344 in 72 games, with only five home runs to his credit a year after clubbing 30 for the first time. '€¢ After missing the first 89 games of the season with a left elbow sprain, promising young outfielder Adam Eaton, who looked like he would be the everyday center fielder before his injury, made his return. But Eaton has scuffled, batting just .196/.286/.250 with two extra-base hits and two RBIs on the season. He'€™s 3-for-25 with two walks after recording his first three-hit game of the season on July 23. In his 17 games this season, he'€™s gotten more than one hit in only two of them, and has gone hitless in nine games. '€¢ Righty David Hernandez was a big part of Arizona'€™s bullpen last year, and though he'€™s thrown 47 innings this season, he hasn'€™t been quite as effective. Hernandez has pitched to the tune of a 4.98 ERA in his 46 appearances, giving up nine home runs (an average of 1.7 per nine innings) and striking out 48 batters while issuing 17 walks. Prior to a scoreless inning on Thursday, Hernandez had given up runs in each of his previous three appearances, allowing five earned runs (six total) in 2 2/3 innings. In the last month, Hernandez has posted a 6.17 ERA and allowed three home runs while recording 11 strikeouts and five walks in his 11 2/3 innings.