It's been a long season for Terry Francona, whose Indians are in last place in the AL Central. (Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Red Sox-Indians series preview

August 17, 2015 - 6:16 am
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While the Red Sox sit 12 1/2 games out of first place in the AL East and 8 1/2 games back of the wild card, their next opponent, while also last in its division, has a bit of a jump on them. The Indians are farther behind the AL Central-leading Royals than the Sox are the Yankees, but they're 2 1/2 games closer to a playoff spot than Boston. The Sox capped off their weekend series with the Mariners on Sunday afternoon, dropping the final game of the set to take two of three from Seattle. In those three days, the Sox scored a total of 45 runs, putting them second in the league for total runs scored since the All-Star break (151) and first in the month of August (95). The team is leading the majors in batting average (.284) since the break with a league-high 284 hits. Boston's .317 batting average, .374 on-base percentage and .516 slugging percentage this month also are best in the big leagues. "It's just a bunch of guys going up, having a great approach, not missing their pitch," acting manager Torey Lovullo said of the team's offensive success Saturday. "We were having some really, really loud contact throughout the course of the game and throughout the course of [Friday's] game. Against arguably one of the best pitchers in baseball [Felix Hernandez], there was no letup by us." The Red Sox have gotten some scattered good starts from their pitchers recently, but not nearly enough to keep them on the up and up. Since the break, the Sox' 5.39 team ERA is second worst in the league and worst in the American League. They've also issued the fourth-most walks since then and given up the most home runs. The Indians have a bit of a different situation going for them. They have the same record as the Sox in their last 10 games, 5-5, but their pitching is significantly better while their offense has struggled at times. On the year, Cleveland is in the bottom third in the majors for runs scored with 463 while the Red Sox are third with 527. The Indians have collected the 17th-most hits in the majors with 998 compared to the Sox' fifth-best 1,070. Still, they draw the third-most walks in the majors (397), most in the AL, and have the sixth-fewest strikeouts. In August, though, the Indians have registered the fourth-most hits in the league (142) and are sixth with a .278 team batting average. Part of that might have to do with the moves the team made at the non-waiver trade deadline, as Cleveland sent Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn to the Braves for infielder Chris Johnson, leaving room to fill the lineup with different players. "The good thing is, the new guys have come in and swung the bat real well," Indians manager Terry Francona said Wednesday. "So that helps. They're not coming in and searching and trying to figure out who their friends are or who they're going to hang out with or if they're going to play. So that helps a lot." Though the runs aren't necessarily coming in droves for Cleveland, the pitching has been there. As a staff this season, the Indians have struck out the most batters in the major leagues with 1,032, a difference of 16 between them and the Dodgers, who have the second most and 63 more than the Yankees, who have the fourth most. Tribe pitchers also have the fourth-best WHIP (1.20), sixth-best opponent batting average (.240), third-fewest hits allowed (937) and fourth-best opponent on-base percentage (.300). Those numbers have stayed the same or improved since the break, and even more so just this month. The Indians have given up the second-fewest hits in August (98), along with posting the second-best WHIP (1.01), second-best opponent batting average (.205) and second-best on-base percentage (.264). Here are the pitching matchups for the series: Monday: Matt Barnes (3-2, 5.64 ERA) vs. Danny Salazar (10-6, 3.26 ERA) Tuesday: Eduardo Rodriguez (6-5, 4.83 ERA) vs. Trevor Bauer (9-9, 4.35 ERA) Wednesday: Joe Kelly (5-6, 5.69 ERA) vs. Corey Kluber (8-12, 3.34 ERA) WHO'S HOT: RED SOX -- David Ortiz is 10 for his last 18 with two doubles, two home runs, eight RBIs and three walks. In the month of August, the designated hitter is slashing .396/.352/.311 with five home runs and 15 RBIs. He's also riding an eight-game hitting streak. -- Jackie Bradley Jr. had a day of historic proportions this weekend, tallying five extra-base hits Saturday, the most in Red Sox history for a single game. With a slash line of .500/.520/1.042 and eight RBIs in his last five games, the outfielder has raised his season batting average from .119 to .247 in his 13 games since August began with an active six-game hit streak to boot. -- Brock Holt has been putting things together of late, collecting 10 hits in his last 24 a-bats with three doubles, a triple, five walks and six RBIs. He's also posted multi-hit efforts in each of his last four games and has at least one hit in seven of his last eight outings. WHO'S HOT: INDIANS -- Francisco Lindor is 11-for-24 over his last six games, recording a pair of doubles, two RBIs, four walks, a stolen base and four runs. His .458/.536/.542 slash line leads his team during that span, and until Sunday he had a 10-game hit streak going. -- Lonnie Chisenhall also has been contributing for the Indians, batting .400 with two RBIs and a walk in his most recent five games. In August, he's slashing .351/.400/.432 with 16 hits in 37 at-bats and five RBIs. -- Corey Kluber has registered back-to-back complete games in his most recent two starts. Scheduled to face the Red Sox in the series finale, the 29-year-old has allowed just two runs, four hits and two walks in his last 18 innings with 17 strikeouts. WHO'S NOT: RED SOX -- Ryan Cook has given up nine earned runs over his two innings with the Red Sox. Most recently, the reliever surrendered five runs on as many hits Saturday, going just two-thirds of an inning. In the appearance before that, Cook allowed four earned runs on four hits in just one-third of an inning. -- Tommy Layne has a 21.60 ERA in August, as he's conceded four runs in 1 2/3 innings. His WHIP for the month is 3.60 and he's thrown 27 of his 57 total pitches for strikes (47.4 percent) with three walks. -- Craig Breslow hasn't been terrible lately, but he's had a bit of trouble. On Sunday the lefty was responsible for the Mariners' winning runs, and earlier in the month the Yankees scored five earned runs on him on four hits and a walk. Other than those two instances, Breslow has a 2.25 ERA for August compared to the 10.80 mark including them. WHO'S NOT: INDIANS -- Giovanny Urshela has a .182/.237/.309 slash line this month with 17 hits in 55 at-bats plus a double and two home runs. In his last six games, the third baseman is slashing .192/.269/.273 with four walks, two strikeouts and two RBIs. -- Jose Ramirez is batting .269 in August, but in his last 28 at-bats he has a .214 average. A walk helps out his recent on-base percentage of .241, and he's driven in a run in that period, but no extra-base hits keeps his slugging percentage even with his batting average. -- Trevor Bauer's last two starts have not been his best. Though the right-hander began the month with a 6 2/3-inning effort that yielded just one earned run, he has allowed 10 earned runs in the 9 2/3 innings that followed over his next two outings. His most recent start was just 3 1/3 innings long, during which he gave up six earned runs on seven hits with a strikeout.

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