BOSTON -- Saturday's forecast calls for no rain, with partial clouds and wind in the afternoon, and with it the Red Sox are hoping they can right the ship once again after one of the most disappointing series of the season.
The Sox returned Monday from a 10-game road trip in which they went 4-6 and promptly got swept by one of the worst teams in baseball, the last-place Chicago Cubs of the National League Central. Nothing seemed to go Boston's way, whether it was having to break up a no-hit bid by Jake Arrieta in Game 1, or stranding 10 runners in a 2-1 loss in Game 2, or just completely blowing up in Game 3, allowing 19 hits in a 16-9 loss to complete the sweep.
And suddenly, any momentum gained from last weekend's series at Yankee Stadium is gone, and the Sox are back at square one, falling nine games under .500 for the first time since May 25. That game, an 8-5 loss to Tampa Bay, was their season-worst 10th straight loss at the time, marred even further by a bench-clearing brawl after Yunel Escobar stole third uncontested with a six-run lead.
Following that loss, of course, the Sox reeled off a memorable seven-game win streak, so perhaps there is hope yet. Either way, some are right to wonder whether the last few days are the low point of the season.
Manager John Farrell is sticking to the weekend's lineup of starting pitchers after Friday's rainout. The Sox will send their top two pitchers to the mound Saturday, with Jon Lester (9-7, 2.92 ERA) taking the ball in Game 1 and John Lackey (9-5, 3.62) in the nightcap.
In the season series, the two teams are split at 5-5. Orioles cleanup hitter Nelson Cruz, who ranks second in MLB in RBIs (68) and is tied for first in homers (26), has historically had a good chunk off success against both of Saturday's pitchers -- particularly Lester, against whom Cruz has registered .458/.519/1.000 totals with three homers in 27 career at-bats.
The Sox come into the series not as desperate for offense as it appears -- they totaled 24 hits in their last two games -- but definitely in need of a jolt. David Ortiz has 4 RBIs in his last seven games, including a three-run jack against the Yankees, but otherwise he is 4-for-21 over that span. On the other hand, Dustin Pedroia has been heating up of late, going 12-for-24 in his last six games with five RBIs.