The Boston Red Sox (52-65) kick off a series with the Cincinnati Reds (60-58) for the last stop on their current road trip. Boston swept a short two-game series at Fenway Park when the teams met back in May. Craig Breslow got the win in relief of each game, which both ended with a final score of 4-3.
Cincinnati trails the Milwaukee Brewers by 5.5 games in the NL Central and are 2.5 games out of a Wild Card spot, while playing in arguably the most competitive division race in the majors. While they may be the furthest back in the four-team race for the division, their +30 run differential is the 4th best in the NL, led by a deep rotation that ranks 2nd in the majors in ERA.
This is only the fourth all-time regular season meeting between the two teams. The only other time the Red Sox visited Cincinnati, they took 2 of 3 from the Reds back in 2008. Coincidentally, that also happened in a year when Boston was coming off a World Series season.
- Joe Kelly (0-0, 1.29 ERA) gets his second start in a Red Sox uniform. He'll face a familiar foe that comes from his former division when he was a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. He only faced the Reds once last year, picking up the win after giving up 1 run over 6 innings. Prior to that he had only faced them out of the bullpen in 2012, where he still held them to a single run over 5 total innings.
- A trip back to another NL stadium means putting David Ortiz back at 1B tonight. Given that Ortiz is in a 1-for-15 slump over the past week, you might expect he'd get a couple days off in this series. Then again, Mike Napoli hasn't been much better lately, hitting .207 so far in August (although his .361 OBP this month dwarfs the .233 Ortiz has produced). While Ortiz is still hitting for power (his 26 HRs are the 4th most in the AL), his other numbers are all down across the board from the level he was at the last 4 seasons. We learned long ago never to count out Ortiz, but at some point we have to expect the 38-year old to reach a point of decline that he's not going to bounce back from.
- Wasn't a move back to SS supposed to cure what was wrong with Xander Bogaerts at the plate? He finally got his wish when Stephen Drew was shipped out of town at the trade deadline, but since moving back to his preferred position Bogaerts has gone 3-for-35 (.086) with only 1 walk and 10 strikeouts. His -0.9 dWAR is the second worst among AL shortstops, so if changing positions isn't helping him hit then what good does it do? Besides allow Will Middlebrooks to occasionally play 3B, where he's been below average in the field and worse at the plate.
- Matt Latos (4-3, 3.12 ERA) takes the mound for Cincinnati. He started the season on the disabled list and didn't make his debut until June 14, but his return has solidified the strong rotation for the Reds. His strikeout rate has plummeted to a career low 5.70 K/9, which must be related to his dip in velocity – with an average fastball clocked at 90.4, down from 92.6 last season.
- 3B Todd Frazier leads the Reds in most offensive categories in a breakout year that saw him make his first All-Star appearance. He's hitting a career best .281/.340/.460 with 20 HR and 62 RBI. The only Reds player ahead of him in any of those categories is catcher Devin Mesoraco, who spent enough time on the disabled list to keep him from getting enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title. Both players are in the top 20 in the NL in WAR – Mesoraco (3.8), Frazier (3.4).
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Tags: Baseball, Boston, Boston Red Sox, David Ortiz, Joe Kelly, Mike Napoli, MLB, Will Middlebrooks, Xander Bogaerts
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