Red Sox-White Sox series preview

August 30, 2013 - 9:20 am
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The Red Sox will look to keep up their winning ways as they welcome in the White Sox for a three-game weekend set. The Red Sox have been unable to spark any kind of prolonged winning streak, but they've been winning one series after another. And they manage to do it in dramatic fashion, too. They lost the series finale against the Orioles on Thursday night, but Wednesday night's series clincher was a come-from-behind victory, won in the team's last at-bat when pinch-hitter Mike Carp singled in the go-ahead run. '€œThis is a group that knows how to play to the game situation that'€™s in front of them,'€ manager John Farrell said after Wednesday's win. '€œThey love to compete. They love to prepare for a given day. We'€™ve seen it time and time again. Kind of shows the grit and the character of this team that'€™s been present all year." Though the Red Sox missed a chance to pad their lead after a Rays loss earlier in the day on Thursday, they still maintain a comfortable 2½-game lead over Tampa Bay. Wednesday's win had put the Red Sox 24 games above .500, the most above .500 they've been all season. They've won their last three series. The White Sox finished second in the AL Central with 85 wins last season, but they've fallen far and fast in 2013. Chicago sits in the cellar of the Central, a game back of the fourth-place Twins and 21 games out of first place, with their elimination number already at nine games. But all of a sudden, the White Sox have become a hot team. They're playing much better baseball as of late, having won 13 of their last 18 games. And they've been beating good teams, too. Prior to taking two of three from the last-place Astros, the White Sox won their series with the Rangers and swept the Royals. They even took two of three from the first-place Tigers earlier this month. They've been led by a hot-hitting lineup, scoring 23 runs in their last four games. The White Sox were one of the biggest sellers at the trade deadline, and the Red Sox certainly reaped the benefits of Chicago's subpar season, acquiring starter Jake Peavy and reliever Matt Thornton in separate deals. The White Sox also ended up moving reliever Jesse Crain (to the Rays) and outfielder Alex Rios (Rangers). The two clubs met once already this season, with the White Sox taking two of the three games from the Red Sox in Chicago. Here are the pitching matchups. Friday: Ryan Dempster (6-9, 4.77) vs. Hector Santiago (4-7, 3.25) Saturday: Jake Peavy (10-5, 3.99) vs. John Danks (4-10, 4.15) Sunday: Felix Doubront (10-6, 3.74) vs. Andre Rienzo (1-0, 4.21) WHO'S HOT: RED SOX '€¢ After a little slump in which he hit .200/.226/.233 over 13 games, Jacoby Ellsbury appears to be heating up again. Ellsbury went 7-for-12 with a double and three stolen bases in the series with the Orioles, bringing his stolen base total up to 50 on the season, which ties the second-highest total of his career with more than a month left to play. The power that Ellsbury began to show has waned recently, and he's without a home run since the two-home run game back on Aug. 6, but Ellsbury still is batting a solid .299/.357/.422 on the season. '€¢ Shane Victorino has been one of the team's most productive hitters over the past few series, batting .432/.490/.886 with five home runs, five doubles and 13 RBIs in his last 11 games. The outfielder has been experiencing a power surge, with seven round-trippers this month as compared to only five through his first 75 games. Also impressive has been Victorino's outstanding defense in right field. All season long he's shown excellent range, and he grades out as a top outfielder in the league. Victorino's been one of the most valuable players on the Red Sox, with his 4.9 WAR ranking as the second highest on the team. '€¢ Craig Breslow is proving to be one of the most reliable arms out of the bullpen, and lately he has been working in late innings as the set-up man to Koji Uehara. Breslow has not allowed a run since July 21, throwing 15 straight scoreless outings (12 2/3 innings) and allowing just six hits and four walks in that span. The lefty has actually been very tough on right-handed hitters, holding them to just a .214/.275/.296 line as compared to lefties, who are hitting .293 with an .812 OPS against him. Breslow's ERA has shrunk to 2.12 through 46 2/3 innings this season, and while he doesn't strike out many batters (less than five per nine inning), he's been quite effective. WHO'S HOT: WHITE SOX '€¢ One of the main components of the Peavy trade was Avisail Garcia, who was ranked the No. 2 prospect in the Tigers' farm system prior to this season before being dealt to Chicago in the three-team deal. Garcia, who was called up to the major league club on Aug. 9, has been one of the team's hottest hitters, batting .352/.387/.465 in his first 19 games with the White Sox. Garcia knocked his first home run with Chicago in Wednesday's 6-1 win over the Astros, driving in three runs with two additional hits. The outfielder had a big series in Chicago's last set at home against Houston, going 7-for-13 with four runs driven in. The 22-year-old already has recorded seven multi-hit performances for the White Sox in just 19 contests, and has knocked in nine runs with three doubles and a triple in addition to Wednesday's home run. '€¢ The departure of Rios has opened up playing time for younger, less experienced outfielders, like Jordan Danks,who has been swinging a hot bat recently. Danks, 27, has hit .400 with four doubles and a home run in his last 14 games, and .333/.379/.519 in 25 games since being recalled at the end of July. The outfielder has played 57 games for the White Sox in his second season of major league service, surpassing last year's total of 50 games. Danks was the hero of Chicago's Tuesday night contest, when he smacked a two-run single in the eighth inning to cap a three-run rally and give the White Sox a 10-8 victory over the Astros. He is hitting .253/.313/.407 on the year. '€¢ Chris Sale has been a bright spot in Chicago's disappointing season. The 24-year-old has an ugly 10-12 record despite posting a 2.99 ERA and 1.065 WHIP in 180 1/3 innings. The two-time All-Star, who finished sixth in last year's Cy Young voting, ranks fifth in the majors with 193 strikeouts and has an impressive 4.95 strikeout-to-walk ratio. An eight-inning, 12-strikeout performance against the Astros on Wednesday gave Sale his fourth 12-plus strikeout game of the season, which stands as the most in White Sox history. WHO'S NOT: RED SOX '€¢ It's not too often that David Ortiz hits a skid. It's even less often that he hits a skid as bad as the one he's currently trying to pull himself out of. The Red Sox slugger is hitless in his last 22 at-bats. His longest hitless streak as a member of the Red Sox is 23 at-bats, while the longest drought of his career is 27 at-bats. Ortiz looked lost at the plate on Thursday, striking out twice and leaving three runners on base. He's even had trouble drawing walks during the slump, working one free pass while striking out eight times. "Just missing pitches," Ortiz said after Thursday night's loss. "You've got to stay aggressive, keep on battling. It happens to everybody. Hey, I'm a player just like everybody else. I'm not going to put pressure on myself. We don't have time for that. Just keep trying. That's the only way you can get out of it." '€¢ Jonny Gomes has struggled at the plate lately, hitting just .186 in his last 14 games with two doubles and two home runs. He had only one hit, a double in the series against the Orioles, and killed a potential ninth-inning rally on Thursday night with no-out, one-on double-play ball. More surprising than the lack of hits in the Baltimore series is the fact that Gomes didn't draw a walk. Even when he's slumped throughout the season, the outfielder has found ways to get on base; he has a .334 OBP despite his .228 average on the year. '€¢ It's not that Brandon Workman has been particularly bad as of late. He's recorded two straight scoreless outings and has lowered his ERA to 4.41 on the season. But he's been a little bit wild, walking seven batters in his last 12 1/3 innings. He got into trouble in his 1 2/3 innings on Thursday night despite not giving up a hit, walking three batters. Overall, however, Workman has been proving that he can be effective in important situations, and has compiled a 2.35 ERA in his last five outings. WHO'S NOT: WHITE SOX '€¢ Tyler Flowers was given the opportunity to start every day behind the plate at the beginning of the year following the departure of long-time White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski during the offseason. But Flowers has struggled offensively all season, and with the promotion of hot-hitting catching prospect Josh Phegley, Flowers has seen his playing time drastically reduced. His latest slump has been his worst of the season, with the catcher batting just .091/.167/.182 with one RBI over his last 15 games, with only 10 starts over those games. Flowers has just two hits this month in 23 at-bats, drawing three walks and striking out 12 times. Flowers, who has never been much of an offensive force in his time in the majors, is batting .190/.244/.341 in 83 games this season. '€¢ Adam Dunn has had an all-around streaky season, following occasional hot streaks with ugly slumps.  The slugger has been cold lately, going 5-for-40 with three walks and 17 strikeouts over his last 10 contests.  After leading the majors in strikeouts in 2012 (the fourth time in his career he's earned the dubious title, and this time with a career-worst 222 punchouts), he more than likely will rank first in K's this season. He's sixth in the majors right now and fourth in the American League with 152 strikeouts, while he ranks 10th in the majors in walks (another category he topped last season) with 67. Dunn, who is hitting .231/.333/.462 on the year, leads the White Sox with 30 home runs and 79 RBIs. '€¢ Prior to a two-hit showing in the series finale with the Astros on Wednesday, Gordon Beckham had been batting .171/.205/.268 over his previous 12 games, without a multi-hit performance since Aug. 14. The slump is somewhat unusual for the second baseman, who leads team qualifiers with a .290 average and .339 OBP in 79 games. Beckham, who missed 47 games in the beginning of the season after having surgery on a broken bone in his wrist, is enjoying one of his best seasons, batting .290 with a .738 OPS.

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