Indians-Red Sox Preview

There are no mulligans in baseball. Even if there were, the

Boston Red Sox starting rotation would be out of them.

One night after Josh Beckett got hit hard by the Cleveland

Indians and then lustily booed off the Fenway Park mound, his

golfing partner Clay Buchholz will get the ball Friday night trying

to help the Red Sox avoid their longest home losing streak in 18

years.

Mired in the AL East basement, Boston (12-19) opened this

four-game series Thursday night with an 8-3 loss to AL

Central-leading Cleveland (18-13) that may have been less

competitive than the score would indicate. Beckett, who had skipped

his previous start due to lat soreness that wasn’t severe enough to

prevent him from going golfing during his absence, gave up seven

runs in 2 1-3 innings and the Red Sox never recovered.

“You never want to get booed at your home stadium,” Indians

left fielder and former Red Sox star Johnny Damon said after the

Fenway Park fans jeered Beckett as he left the game. “He’s a great

pitcher. Had a bad night. He helped bring another championship

here, but as we all know that can get lost in time.”

Beckett’s brutal outing increased the ERA of Boston’s starting

rotation to 6.01 for the season, and 11.25 during a six-game home

losing streak. The Red Sox haven’t lost seven in a row at Fenway

since a 12-game skid June 3-29, 1994. Due largely to the horrible

starting pitching, the Red Sox are 5-18 when they fail to score 10

runs.

“It’s challenging every night,” said manager Bobby Valentine,

whose club has dropped three straight overall and eight of nine.

“The guys are doing a great job and I tip my cap to them and the

offense. We were a bloop away from getting back into this game four

different times.”

As poorly as Boston’s starters have pitched as a whole, none has

struggled as much as Buchholz (3-1, 9.09 ERA). The right-hander,

who reportedly accompanied Beckett on his golf outing last week,

owns both the highest ERA and the highest opponent batting average

(.343) among major league qualifiers.

Buchholz has allowed five runs or more in all six of his starts

in 2012. He surrendered five runs, seven hits – three homers – and

four walks in a season-low 3 2-3 innings Sunday, a game the Red Sox

lost 9-6 in 17 innings to Baltimore.

Buchholz will be opposed by Ubaldo Jimenez (3-2, 4.04), who is

coming off his finest start of the season. The right-hander issued

five walks Sunday, but limited powerful Texas to two hits in seven

scoreless innings of the Indians’ 4-2 victory.

Now, Jimenez’s challenge will be to take his success on the

road. He has a 2.70 ERA and .134 opponent batting average in three

outings in Cleveland, but a 5.74 ERA in three starts away from home

while allowing opponents to hit .338.

Jimenez struggled in his only previous outing against the Red

Sox on June 23, 2010, giving up six runs and 10 hits over 5 2-3

innings and not getting a decision for Colorado.

Jack Hannahan hit a two-run homer and Jason Kipnis added a solo

shot off Beckett on Thursday for the Indians, who avoided their

first three-game losing streak of the season as they opened a

six-game road trip.