Bases loaded. Rays lead 3-1. 2 strikes. 2 out to Will Middlebrooks.
Line drive to left center field through the outfielders as Middlebrooks comes through with a bases clearing double to give the Sox lead in the bottom of the 9th! Leave it to the Sox bullpen to finish the job as they complete the 9th inning comeback versus the Rays in the series finale. The Sox now have won 2 games in a row to move to 4-6 in their last 10 as they head to Minnesota to work on series 2 of their 3 series road trip against the Twins. The Boston bats have not been very loud lately as if they are going to want to beat the Twins they will need to wake up! The Sox enter this series in second place of the AL East trailing the Yanks by just 1 game. The Twins enter the series one game below .500 in fourth place of the AL Central.
Game 1: Clay Buchholz (6-0) vs. Vance Worley (1-4)
Sunscreen and doctoring is all we have heard about Clay Buchholz lately. The Red Sox best pitcher enters this series with a great 6-0 record and a 1.69 ERA. As Matt Moore beat the Sox earlier this week he became the first pitcher to reach 7-0 as Buchholz hopes to join him on that list tonight. Buchholz has quality starts in seven of his eight outings this season. He has also tallied 60 strikeouts in 58 2/3 innings and has lasted at least seven frames in all but one start. Buchholz has left the past two starts with no decsion including a great 8 inning game versus the Blue Jays surrendering just 2 runs. Buchholz will have to battle some hot Twin hitters including Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Mauer extended his hitting streak to 14 games on Wednesday and Justin Morneau pushed his to 11 before the team's off-day on Thursday. Morneau has eight hits in 16 at-bats (.500 average) against Buchholz. Mauer has five hits in 13 at-bats (.385) against the righty. The Twins will send Vance Worley to the mound who has not been off the best start as he is 1-4 with a 7,15 ERA. At 20 strikeouts Worley has just a third of the number of strikeouts as Buchholz. Vance Worley hasn't been a model of consistency this season. The Twins hope that means he'll deliver a strong outing on Friday. In eight starts this season, Worley has allowed the following earned run totals: one, two, three (twice), four, five, six and seven. Both offenses will come in strong but all in all this seems like the time that Buchholz will shut down the Twins offense to show that he is the pitcher he says he is rather than a cheater. The Sox bullpen will have to continue without Bailey as he hopes to be back early next week for the series versus the White Sox in Chicago.
Prediction: Buchholz gets win number 7 with a 4-1 win!
Game 2: Ryan Dempster (2-4) vs. Scott Diamond (3-3)
Saturday's game 2 will be an exact pitching rematch of May 7th the last time these teams met. In that game Diamond made the Sox batters look like fools. In that game the Twins took the win 6-1 as Diamond went 7 shutout innings with just 3 hits allowed. Dempster was not so impressive for that game as he also went 7 innings but allowed 4 runs on 5 hit but only 2 were earned due to the awful defensive game where the Sox had 3 errors. The Sox haven't done much damage against left-handed pitchers this season. From hard throwers to soft tossers, southpaws have stymied Boston's offense to the tune of a .230 batting average and just 12 home runs in more than 500 plate appearances.On Sunday against the Orioles, Diamond struggled. Without command of his pitches, he allowed six runs on nine hits, including three homers, over 5 2/3 innings. Though this will not be an easy task for Diamond, Dempster has nothing to brag about either. He has started this season not very well and is coming off his worst start in a Red Sox uniform. Joe Mauer, in the middle of a 14-game hitting streak, missed Friday's game with back stiffness, but he could return on Saturday. For the Sox, Victorino was held out of Friday nights game but hopes to return Saturday night!
Prediction: 7-4 Twins
Game 3: John Lackey (1-4) vs. Pedro Hernandez (2-0)
Wow! Big Papi sure came through last night to bring back the hope in all Sox fans so hopefully that was not a one night wonder! Game 3 Sunday will be the finale for this series before the Sox head to Chicago and John Lackey will take the mound for this game. After spending part of the season on the DL from a right bicep strain Lackey has seen a few losses come his way. In his defense the pitching in these games has not be absolutely terrible but the offense has needed a wake up call. Lackey last start was one of his roughest of the season versus the Rays when he gave up nine hits and five runs in 4 1/3 innings. Lackey has a good strikeout rate this season, punching out 27 over 26 2/3 innings. After scoring 135 runs in April, fourth most in the Majors, the Red Sox have fallen to the middle of the pack during May. Manager John Farrell said his team's luck may just be evening out. The Red Sox put up 12 runs Saturday as they won their fourth straight game, having scored 28 runs over the stretch, highlighted by David Ortiz's sixth and seventh homers in 24 games and another two hits from Dustin Pedroia, who has hit safely in 10 straight and is batting .341 on the season. To face Lackey in this game will be Pedro Hernandez who has begun the season 2-0 with a 5.79 ERA through his first 7 games. The last time Hernandez faced the Sox two weeks ago the Sox took a beating themselves but made sure to show Hernanadez they had the power to. Coming up short in that game the Sox still only let Hernandez going 2 innings while getting 7 hits and 6 runs on him. While the Twins have been among the highest-scoring teams in May, cleanup hitter Josh Willingham has just five homers with a .198 batting average and No. 5 hitter Ryan Doumit has three homers while hitting .220.With Joe Mauer hitting .351 and Justin Morneau still proving to be dangerous, even without the power, the threat of an intimidating lineup still looms for Twins' foes. For the Sox Jacoby Ellsubury has been the nervous lead off hitter as they still question if a offseason trade would have been a good idea.
Prediction: The 4 game winning streak continues as the Sox win 8-3!