Braves-Red Sox Preview

Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz said he’s tired of

the negative publicity the team receives.

There’s not much negative that can be said about the Red Sox’s

recent results.

Boston looks to match a season high with a sixth consecutive

victory Friday night when the Atlanta Braves make their first visit

to Fenway Park in three years.

Before the Red Sox (36-33) completed a three-game sweep of Miami

with Thursday’s 6-5 victory, Ortiz fired back at a recent report

that said the team’s clubhouse is “toxic.”

“I don’t know, man, I’m just tired of dealing with the drama

here,” he told the Red Sox’s official website. “… It seems like

everything that goes on around here is like one of those Congress

decisions that will affect the whole nation. It’s not like that,

man. This is baseball. We’re supposed to have fun, to have our

performance out there at the highest level.”

Ortiz has been doing that, batting .375 with four homers and 11

RBIs to help Boston win seven of eight following a 1-7 skid.

The Red Sox, who won six straight from April 23-28, have an

opportunity to move a season-best four games above .500 after

rookie Will Middlebrooks homered for the second straight game and

drove in four runs.

“I love to see guys growing and learning and excelling at the

same time,” manager Bobby Valentine said of Middlebrooks, Daniel

Nava and Ryan Kalish, who sparked a three-run, eighth-inning rally.

“It’s, I guess, a perfect combination.”

The Red Sox will try to post their first six-game interleague

winning streak since June 15-20, 2010, with Jon Lester (4-4, 4.53

ERA) on the hill.

The left-hander is looking to build off his first win in five

starts, a 4-3 victory at Wrigley Field on Saturday when he gave up

three runs – all coming on a Luis Valbuena homer – in 6 2-3

innings.

Lester, 1-2 with a 5.98 ERA in seven starts at Fenway Park this

season, will try to avoid the long ball Friday when he faces the

Braves for the first time getting his first win in his second major

league start, a 4-1 victory at Atlanta on June 16, 2006.

Jason Heyward gets his first look at Red Sox pitching after

hitting two of the Braves’ season-best five homers in Wednesday’s

10-5 road win over the New York Yankees.

Heyward is batting .400 (10 for 25) during a seven-game hitting

streak. The team is 9-2 when he has two or more hits.

“We’re really, really good when Jason’s swinging the bat well,”

catcher David Ross said.

The Braves (37-32) could use a good outing from Friday’s

scheduled starter Jair Jurrjens (0-2, 9.37 ERA), who is scheduled

to make his first appearance since April 23.

Sent down to Triple-A Gwinnett following four poor outings, the

right-hander is back in the rotation – at least for now – with

Brandon Beachy out for the season following Thursday’s Tommy John

surgery.

“This could be a big pickup if (Jurrjens) goes back to the form

he had last year (when he made the All-Star team),” manager Fredi

Gonzalez told the Braves’ official website.

Jurrjens is 3-1 with a 1.34 ERA in eight career interleague

starts. His only defeat against an AL team while pitching for the

Braves was a 4-1 home loss to Boston on June 26, 2009. Five days

earlier, the right-hander did not earn a decision after lasting 6

1-3 innings in a 6-5 loss at Fenway Park – Atlanta’s last game in

Boston.

Ortiz hit a two-run shot off Jurrjens in that game and is 3 for

6 with two homers lifetime against the right-hander.