BOSTON (CBS) — The Boston Red Sox will try to start the unofficial second half of the season on a high note Friday night when they open a four-game set against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim out west.
Over the last month, the 42-47 Red Sox have the fourth-best record in baseball at 14-8. Fittingly, the Angels top the list with a 15-7 record since June 18.
If you still have playoff hopes for the team, who sits 6.5 games back in the AL East, that dream will either continue or take a big hit after Boston’s seven-game road trip out of the break. It won’t be an easy series for Boston’s starters, not with All-Star game MVP Mike Trout leading the way for the Angels on offense. Earlier this year he went 5-for-14 against Boston pitching at Fenway Park, clubbing a double and driving in three runs.
Another arm has been added to their rotation in place of the injured Clay Buchholz, with 24-year-old Brian Johnson added to the Major League roster in place of Boston’s ailing ace. What we don’t know when Johnson (8-6, 2.73 ERA in 16 starts for Pawtucket) will be making his Red Sox debut — either Monday in the finale against the Angels or Tuesday when Boston starts a three-game set against the Houston Astros.
If Johnson doesn’t get the nod on Monday, it’s expected to be knuckleballer Steven Wright. We still don’t know who will get the ball of the Angels for the final game of the series.
But we do know the pitching matchups for the first three games against the Angels, so let’s take a closer look:
Friday July 17, 10:05pm
Wade Miley (8-8, 4.80 ERA) vs. C.J. Wilson (7-7, 3.83 ERA)
One of Miley’s best starts of the season came against the Angels when he tossed eight innings of one-run ball back on May 24 at Fenway Park, allowing just four hits and walking one.
But inconsistency has plagued the lefty all season, and he was roughed up for six runs in 5.1 innings by the Yankees in Boston’s final game before the All-Star break. We’ll see which Miley shows up out on the west coast.
Opposing Miley is C.J. Wilson, who has struggled the last two months, going 4-4 with 4.68 ERA in his last eight outings. He’s 6-4 with a 2.88 ERA in 11 starts (23 games) against Boston in his career.
Key Matchup: Dustin Pedroia vs. Wilson
Pedroia is expected to be activated off the disabled list on Friday after missing 16 games with a hamstring injury he suffered back on June 24. He has some solid numbers against Wilson, going 11-for-27 at the plate (a .407 average) with three doubles, a homer and six RBIs.
Saturday July 18, 9:05pm
Rick Porcello (5-9, 5.90 ERA) vs. Garrett Richards (9-6, 3.53 ERA)
Richards picked up a win over the Red Sox back on May 22 in Boston despite allowing five runs in six innings. How you ask? Porcello was the opposing pitcher, and allowed seven runs in 4.1 innings or work.
This one could get ugly.
Key Matchup: Mike Napoli vs. Richards
I know what you’re wondering, and yes, we are talking about the same Mike Napoli who hit .196 before the All-Star break. But Nap is 5-for-9 (.556) with a double, two homers and four RBIs in his career against Richards. He also has great numbers against the Angels over his career, posting a .333/.453/.739 split with 18 homers in 36 games.
Napoli also has three homers in 33 at-bats against C.J. Wilson, so we might see a lot of him this weekend.
Sunday July 19, 8:05pm
Eduardo Rodriguez (5-2, 3.59 ERA) vs. Hector Santiago (6-4, 2.33 ERA)
Rodriguez gets a few extra days off following the All-Star break, and looks to continue his solid stretch on the mound. In his last three starts, the Boston rookie has allowed just four earned runs in 17.1 innings, earning wins in two of those starts. The Yankees hit a couple of homers off of Rodriguez in his final outing before the break, so it will be important for him to keep the Anaheim bats in Angels Stadium.
For the Angels, the 27-year-old Santiago has gone seven innings in his last three outings, allowing just two earned runs over that span. To make matters worse, he’s also a lefty.
Boston is still struggling mightily against southpaws this season, with the team batting average just .234 against lefties — 24th in the league.
Key Matchup: Xander Bogaerts vs. Santiago
Bogaerts 3-for-5 with a double against Santiago, and he’s also hitting .333 against lefties this season.