Red Sox-Giants Preview

The Boston Red Sox are percentage points out of first place in

the AL East.

It wouldn’t take much to drop the San Francisco Giants back into

the NL West cellar.

Will Middlebrooks looks to continue his hot hitting and help the

Red Sox regain sole possession of the division lead in the finale

of this three-game series with the Giants on Wednesday.

Boston (74-54) is in a virtual tie with Tampa Bay atop the

division, but is percentage points behind having played four more

games.

The Red Sox can regain first place with a win Wednesday

afternoon, but it may just be temporary since the Rays are facing

Baltimore hours later.

Boston has failed to build a cushion in the East, losing eight

of 12. Brayan Villarreal walked Marco Scutaro on four pitches with

the bases loaded in the ninth inning Tuesday in his team debut as

the Red Sox lost 3-2.

”We shouldn’t be in that situation,” catcher David Ross said.

”We had a guy that we know who is notorious for taking pitches, we

have to throw strike one.”

Middlebrooks had two of his team’s seven hits in the defeat and

is batting .452 (14 for 31) in 10 games since being recalled from

Triple-A Pawtucket.

That’s a welcome change after he batted .192 over his first 53

games, earning him a return to the minors in June.

Middlebrooks is a .373 hitter with four homers and 14 RBIs in 18

career interleague games.

Felix Doubront (8-6, 3.95 ERA) will try to help Boston avoid a

third straight road series loss as he tries to bounce back from a

dismal outing.

The left-hander was roughed up for a season-worst seven runs and

eight hits – two homers – in four innings of a 10-3 loss to the

Yankees on Friday. That came six days after he gave up three runs

with four walks in four-plus innings of a 5-3 win at Kansas

City.

“I feel like I was a little bit off with my mechanics, the

release point of the ball,” Doubront told the team’s official

website Friday. “My past outing was the same. I have to keep

working on that.”

Doubront, facing the Giants for the first time, has won his last

three interleague starts behind a 2.70 ERA.

San Francisco has won four of six to move one-half game ahead of

last-place San Diego in the NL West.

Barry Zito (4-8, 5.34) is scheduled to take the mound with Chad

Gaudin going on the disabled list after being diagnosed with Carpal

tunnel syndrome.

Zito went 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA over his last four starts before

being moved to the bullpen following a 7-3 loss at Philadelphia on

July 30.

He struggled in his first two relief outings, giving up five

runs in two innings. However, the left-hander rebounded by yielding

one run in three innings over his next two appearances, and that’s

good enough for manager Bruce Bochy.

“He went to the ‘pen and I think he earned this,” Bochy told the

team’s official website. “He’s a guy who’s done a lot for us, if

you look at last year. I now it’s been an up-and-down year for him,

but his stuff, coming out of the ‘pen, I think has gotten

better.”

Zito will face the Red Sox for the first time since a loss in

Boston on June 15, 2007.

David Ortiz is 10 for 25 with two homers and three doubles

against Zito, while Dustin Pedroia is 4 for 6 with a home run.