This road trip has the feeling of a funeral about it.
Three games in Texas, three in New York. Those are two teams that the Sox have one win against in seven games, two teams that lead all of baseball, two teams that have proven themselves to be simply better than the Red Sox.
And to prove themselves worthy of any sort of investment, the Sox need to win both series. This after going 0-for-3 against the Blue Jays in Fenway Park when they most needed to pile on the wins.
There's a chance. The Sox could go in and sweep the two best teams in the major leagues. They could get hot when they most need to, and announce their return to contention in the loudest possible voice. But it's going to take some serious miracles.
Boston Red Sox (48-48) at Texas Rangers (56-38)
Monday, July 23, 8:05 p.m. EST
Felix Doubront (10-4, 4.24 ERA) vs. Scott Feldman (3-6, 5.89 ERA)
Miracle number one: Roy Oswalt is out, Scott Feldman is in. That's a big boost for a Sox team in need of one. Feldman has spent the year throwing hanging sinkers resulting in 1.31 homers per nine innings while inducing a very unimpressive 38 percent ground ball rate. The Sox have the bats to kill this sort of pitching, and it'll be a terrible sign if they don't do so.
Felix Doubront has been having some homer problems of his own this year, and while he managed a decent outing against the Chicago White Sox, a trip to Arlington and a game against the Texas lineup is not a recipe for success. He'll need to be at his absolute best tonight to avoid getting into a shootout, and he hasn't been at his best in a long while.
Tuesday, July 24, 8:05 p.m. EST
NESN/MLB Network, WEEI
Clay Buchholz (8-3, 5.19) vs. Colby Lewis (6-6, 3.43)
The pitchers' duel of the series will feature a locked-in Clay Buchholz taking on Colby Lewis.
Buchholz was excellent against the White Sox, and has been good for an extended period of time. The Rangers are certainly a significant challenge, but in his past outings Buchholz has handled their always-formidable lineups well enough, with a career 3.91 ERA against them. Though there are high expectations of him now that he's been forced unceremoniously to the front of the rotation given the mediocre (and/or terrible) returns from Beckett and Lester of late, the hope here is just to see solid stuff from him. A lockdown outing would be nice, but it's hard to expect from anyone against Josh Hamilton and the like.
The problem will be whether anything short of lockdown is enough against Colby Lewis. The answer may come down largely to luck. Lewis can't be depended on to give up many baserunners, or allow many runs, but he is prone to the homer. The efforts of the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, and Dustin Pedroia to get on base in front of the power bats of Adrian Gonzalez and Jarrod Saltalamacchia could be the key to a win here.
Wednesday, July 25, 8:05 p.m. EST
Josh Beckett (5-8, 4.53) vs. Derek Holland (6-5, 4.84 ERA)
The last opponent for the Sox will be much like the first two, just in the middle in terms of quality. He's not as easy to tee off of as Feldman, nor is he as stingy with the baserunners as Lewis. He gives up homers all-the-same, and the Sox should be able to take reasonable advantage of him. The question is whether or not the right-handed hitters will be back in form after being shut down against the last series of lefties they faced.
Either way, Josh Beckett will have to avoid the disaster start that seems to be waiting in the wings every night. His last outing wasn't so bad as it seemed thanks to some questionable defense and umpiring, but it's been a while since the right-hander has really been locked in on the mound. Up against an offense like the one found in Texas, he could be in for a long night.