The Boston Red Sox (30-36) continue their series at home against the Cleveland Indians (33-34). Boston took the opening game of the series behind a strong effort from Jon Lester (7.2 innings, 1 run, 8 hits) and a three-run home run from David Ortiz that broke the game open in the 5th inning. You would think that Terry Francona, of all managers, would know better than to pitch to Ortiz in that situation.
Cleveland had made up a considerable amount of ground in the AL Central that had them right on the heels of the Detroit Tigers, but a three game losing streak has dropped them to 4th in the division. Unlike the Red Sox, Cleveland is still within striking distance at 3.5 games back. Boston is 8 games back of the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East.
- John Lackey (7-4, 3.18 ERA) gets the start for Boston. There has been a lot of talk lately about Lackey's contract, as ESPN's Buster Olney discussed this week, due to an unusual clause in the deal he signed in 2009. Due to concern over ligaments in his elbow that were revealed to be an issue when he took his physical with the team, Boston worked out a stipulation that if Lackey were to miss time due to the injury, he'd have an extra team option year tacked on to the end of his contract at the bargain price of $500,000. Sure enough, Lackey missed the entire 2012 season with the elbow injury, so despite being arguably the team's best pitcher this season, it's within the team's rights to hold him to that contract and keep him on a cheap deal next year. After all, he already got paid $15.25 million for a lost season in 2012. Rumors swirled that Lackey may consider retirement rather than play at that price, yet it's hard to believe a competitive guy like him would really do that – not when he's throwing this well. More likely, the Sox will agree to a team friendly extension.
- Xander Bogaerts is back in the lineup tonight, after getting a breather yesterday. That will move Brock Holt back to LF and Daniel Nava over to RF.
- There has been some good news on the injury front for the Red Sox this week. Clay Buchholz is scheduled to throw 5 innings in his first rehab start in Pawtucket today. Will Middlebrooks is also expected to play in that game and Shane Victorino will join them tomorrow for the start of his rehab stint. Manager John Farrell also said he expects Stephen Drew to ramp up his activity soon and possibly be back in the lineup later this weekend. Drew has missed the last 4 games with a sore oblique.
- Justin Masterson (4-4, 4.61 ERA) takes the hill for Cleveland. He's having a disappointing season, but his best start so far came earlier this month against the Red Sox. Masterson shutout Boston for 7 innings, striking out a season high 10 batters.
- Michael Brantley leads the Indians in Avg (.313), HRs (10), RBI (43), Runs (47) OBP (.381), steals (8) and hits (79). No other AL team has one player leading in all of those categories.
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