MIAMI, FL - APRIL 19: Greg Dobbs #29 of the Miami Marlins celebrates with Hanley Ramirez #2 after a game against the Chicago Cubs at Marlins Park on April 19, 2012 in Miami, Florida. The Miami Marlins defeated the Chicago Cubs 5-3. (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)
The Red Sox are headed south to Miami to take on the new-look Marlins as they try to break from a tailspin that has left them two games below .500.
The Red Sox are headed down south for a three-game set against the new-look Miami Marlins, big offseason spenders who, like the Red Sox, nevertheless find themselves near the bottom of a stacked East division.
Leaving behind the terrible Sun Life Stadium for the shiny new Marlins Park, the club took the opportunity to take on an entirely new identity, leaving their infamously frugal ways behind and making big free agent splashes on Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, and Heath Bell. Of course, it takes more than one season to go from cellar dwellers to the top of the table, as the Marlins are learning, and at 72-90 last year, it's not terribly surprising that they're hanging around .500 at 31-29.
What is a bit surprising is the fact that they're even at that record given the sort of scores they've been seeing. At -28, the Marlins' run differential is the worst of any team with a winning record, and below quite a few that have losing records as well (such as Boston at +20).
Will the Sox be able to bring the overachieving Marlins back to Earth? Or will Miami take advantage of a free-falling Boston team to push ahead in the NL East?
Boston Red Sox (29-31) at Miami Marlins (31-29)
Monday, June 11, 7:10 p.m. EST
Josh Beckett (4-6, 4.04 ERA) vs. Josh Johnson (3-4, 4.56 ERA)
Josh Beckett bounced back from a mediocre performance against the Tigers with a dominant showing against the Orioles, taking the hard luck loss as a few ground balls found holes in the sixth inning, costing him two runs that his lineup could not make up for. He's been incredibly impressive ever since Golfgate, and should not be expected to falter against his old club.
Josh Johnson has been having an unusually average season thanks in large part to a massive .370 BABIP--not the sort of thing the Sox can be relying on to continue. A strong performance against Atlanta may have even taken the one real advantage such a run of bad luck can give an opposing team: a lack of confidence. This one should be a battle between two impressive pitchers.
Tuesday, June 12, 7:10 p.m. EST
NESN/MLB Network, WEEI
Clay Buchholz (6-2, 5.77 ERA) vs. Mark Buehrle (5-6, 3.49 ERA)
With a complete game shutout putting an exclamation mark on what has been a truly encouraging three-game stretch for Clay Buchholz, it's gotten to the point where Sox fans no longer have to close their eyes every time he takes the mound. Clay has had all his pitches going in each of the last two games, and when he's on like that, he can be night unhittable, especially to an unfamiliar Florida lineup.
Mark Buehrle has been living up to his contract so far, providing the Marlins with plenty of solid innings, but he's exactly the sort of pitcher the Red Sox love to hit. With no power behind his fastball, Buehrle will have to rely on the kind of wile that didn't save the likes of Doug Fister earlier in the season. Whenever the Sox are given time to react to even the fastball, pitchers have a bad day.
Wednesday, June 13, 7:10 p.m. EST
Felix Doubront (6-3, 4.34 ERA) vs Ricky Nolasco (6-4, 4.36 ERA)
Felix Doubront finally endured a bad start, and with his innings being as low as they were, it's put quite the damper on his season numbers as a whole. Still, Doubront has been the guy most capable of recording outs without giving up runs this season for the Red Sox' rotation, and there's no reason that one start should have everyone jumping off the bandwagon. It will be a test for him to shake off the bad result, but one that he'll have to be able to overcome if he's to make it as a major league pitcher.
Ricky Nolasco is producing the same results as ever, hovering around 4.50 and generally giving the Marlins at least a chance to win if not always the best chance. For once, however, his peripherals actually tell the same story. Oft regarded as an underperformer, this year Nolasco has lost some of the control that should have helped to keep runs off the board in the past, and he's striking out fewer batters to go with that. The Sox may not always find themselves in friendly counts, but Nolasco seems the sort of guy they can wait on.