Cardinals take playoff push to Fenway against red-hot Red Sox
BOSTON — Hoping for better results this time around, manager Mike Matheny brings his sizzling St. Louis Cardinals to Fenway Park for a two-game interleague series with the Boston Red Sox that starts Tuesday night.
“I played a lot of games there as a player. I always enjoy going to Fenway,” Matheny said Sunday. “Unfortunately, I have some bad memories from the postseason as a player and as a manager, but no better time to change that than now.”
Matheny was a Cardinals catcher when his 2004 team was swept by the Red Sox in the World Series, ending Boston’s 86-year title drought. He was later the manager when the Cards fell to the Red Sox in six games in 2013, Boston’s third title in 10 seasons.
Fast-forward to Tuesday and the battle between two of the hottest teams in baseball.
“We went in there earlier in the year, and they were coming off a hot streak, we end up taking two,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “But they’re coming in here in similar fashion where they’re swinging the bat well. They’re scoring a high number of runs. So we’ll be able to see that (Tuesday).”
Boston’s Rick Porcello, who has won his past two starts after failing to win for over a month, faces the Cardinals’ Mike Leake in the series opener.
“I’m really excited,” St. Louis outfielder Randal Grichuk said. “There’s been a few stadiums that I have really wanted to play at, and (Fenway is) one of them. We’re coming down to the stretch, and we’ve got less than two months, a month and a half. … It’s going to be fun.”
The Cardinals, given up for dead by many after falling to 53-56 on Aug. 4, had an eight-game winning streak stopped by the Atlanta Braves on Sunday. St. Louis (61-57) comes to Boston 1 1/2 games out of first place in the National League Central.
The Red Sox (67-51) had an eight-game winning streak of their own from July 31 to Wednesday, and they have won 10 of their past 12. After losing a makeup game to the Cleveland Indians 7-3 Monday night, their lead in the American League East is 4 1/2 games over the New York Yankees.
Porcello faced the Cardinals in one of those May games, allowing four runs on nine hits in six innings in a no-decision. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner fell to 4-14 before winning his past two starts. He has a 4.63 ERA and is better than his 6-14 record suggests, but he is still 6-14.
In three career starts against St. Louis, Porcello is 1-1 with 3.38 ERA.
Leake has failed to win in his last three starts, falling to 7-10 but with a respectable 3.48 ERA. He yielded 19 hits and seven earned runs in 11 innings over his last two outings.
Leake is 0-1 with 4.26 ERA in three career starts against Boston. In his only start against the Red Sox this season, he allowed two runs and seven hits in seven innings in a no-decision.
Porcello is 17-8 lifetime in interleague play, while Leake is just 6-10.
Dexter Fowler in 3-for-7 (.429) and Yadier Molina 3-for-9 (.333) lifetime against Porcello. Hanley Ramirez has gone 4-for-10 (.400) with a homer, Jackie Bradley Jr. 3-for-8 (.375) with a home run and Xander Bogaerts 2-for-6 (.333) against Leake.
The two-game series features some of the bright and hot young hitters in the game — Red Sox rookies Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers, and the Cardinals’ Paul DeJong.
“You look at what DeJong is doing at shortstop, a guy that wasn’t there in May, and all of a sudden, here he is approaching 20 home runs already,” Farrell said.