BOSTON -- Greetings from the Edes cave, where the books on top of the reading list include Steve Marantz’s “Next Up at Fenway: A Story of High School, Hope and Lindos Suenos,” which shines a light on Fenway High, the school behind the ballpark of the same name, and some of the remarkable kids and educators who are found within its halls.
Marantz, a long-time Boston journalist at both the Globe and Herald who is now a researcher/producer for ESPN’s E:60, describes his book this way: “Latino issues, education, coming of age and baseball -- told through the journey of a young Latino at Fenway High.”
Marcos Baez, I’m partway through that journey, eager to learn where it takes you.
* Ranger revenge: The Sox open a six-game homestand Tuesday night against the Texas Rangers. The Sox visited Arlington at the beginning of last month and were swept in three games by the Rangers by a combined score of 16-4, the start of a funk in which the Sox lost 9 of 11 games. The Sox are 13-6 since then, but are beginning a stretch in which five of their next six opponents -- Rangers, Rays, Orioles, Tigers and Rockies -- have a combined record of 34 games over .500 entering play Tuesday night.
The outliers are the underachieving Angels, who are 25-33 and just accomplished what many considered impossible, getting swept four straight by the Astros in Anaheim, interrupting Houston’s bid to be recognized as one of history’s worst teams. The Angels come here this weekend.
After taking two of three from the Yankees this past weekend, the Sox come into play Tuesday night with a 35-23 record, a mark exceeded in the American League only by the Rangers, who are 35-21 and have outscored opponents by 59 runs, a run differential that is third in the AL, behind the Tigers (66) and Red Sox (60).
“We’re coming with everything,’’ David Ortiz said when asked if he was looking to inflict a little payback on the Rangers. “We’re playing well, got it going on right now, and we’re going to try to keep on rolling.’’
A reporter for a national media outlet asked Sox manager John Farrell Sunday night if he was satisfied with the team’s current position.
“I don’t know about satisfied,’’ Farrell said, “but we’re fully aware of where we are. We’ve got a challenging month ahead of us, which starts with Texas coming to town, who kind of manhandled us a little bit in a three-game set in Arlington. I say the month of June, but I know the guys in our clubhouse are looking at Tuesday and that’s the extent of it.’’
* Big on the bump: Sox starting pitching remains strong, despite a couple of recent hiccups from left-hander Jon Lester and a 10-day absence by Clay Buchholz. In the last 15 games, the rotation has a 3.12 ERA and has gone at least 6 innings 12 times (Buchholz went 5 Sunday, but that was because of the rain).
“Our starting pitching is doing a helluva job this year,’’ Ortiz said. “You go from Buchholz, (Jon) Lester, my boy Lack (John Lackey), the way he’s been pitching, you saw (Felix) Doubront the other day, even (Ryan) Dempster, losing the last game he pitched, he pitched well. I think they’re in the mojo of motivating each other, and that’s good. Once they see a teammate having a great night the day before, they want to go out there and do the same thing.’’
* Pen strokes: Sox relievers, meanwhile, gave up just one earned run in 10 2/3 innings on the five-game trip to Philadelphia and New York, and lead the majors in strikeout ratio, averaging 10.1 K’s per 9 innings. Left-hander Andrew Miller leads the way with 33 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings, a ratio of 16.2 K’s per 9, while closer Andrew Bailey has 24 whiffs in 15 1/3 innings, a 14.1 ratio.
What may be mildly worrisome if the Sox get into some close games late this week is the fact that Bailey has pitched only three times since coming back from biceps tendinitis on May 22 and hasn’t had a save opportunity since he posted his sixth save against the Indians on May 25.
Lefty Craig Breslow has been a huge contributor after missing the season’s first five weeks with a strained shoulder. He has a 1.29 ERA in 13 appearances and has had almost as much success against right-handed hitters (6 for 28, .214) as he has had against lefties (3 for 20, .150). He has shown the ability to go multiple innings and keeps the ball in the park -- no home runs in 53 plate appearances against.
Breslow is routinely getting innings that had been routinely going to Koji Uehara, who went from a heavy workload to being used just four times since May 19.
A barometer of relief effectiveness is the number of inherited runners scored, and the Sox pen has been impressive. Junichi Tazawa has allowed 1 of 10 inherited runners to score, Uehara is 2 of 10 and Miller 3 of 14.
* Way for Will: While the Sox are delaying the return of outfielder Shane Victorino, wanting to make sure he recovers fully from his strained hamstring, even if that means waiting beyond Wednesday, when he is eligible to return, third baseman Will Middlebrooks (back strain) is on track for Saturday, the first day he is eligible to be back. Middlebrooks also had been trying to play through bruised ribs.
Middlebrooks should play at least two games in Pawtucket before being activated.
“If I’m ready before then, maybe three,’’ he said the other day, before he took his first batting practice on the field this weekend.
“Something I tried to play through, but I had those two at-bats, I realized I couldn’t swing the bat,’’ said Middlebrooks, who took a called third strike twice in Cleveland before being lifted midgame May 23 against the Indians. “I couldn’t even tie my shoes.’’