The Red Sox are finally back on track, riding a five-game winning streak into their series against the Braves.
With a series win against the Cubs sandwiched between five straight wins over the Marlins, the Sox are back to being three games over .500, tied for their highest mark on the season. Just two games back of the second wild card spot in an incredibly crowded race, there's renewed hope for a Sox team that was in desperate need of the 7-1 run.
Now they'll need to take advantage of their momentum in a three-game set against an Atlanta Braves team that kicked an eight-game slump with a series win over the New York Yankees.
Boston Red Sox (36-33) vs. Atlanta Braves (37-32)
Friday, June 22, 7:10 p.m. EST
NESN/MLB Network, WEEI
Jon Lester (4-4, 4.53 ERA) vs. Jair Jurrjens (0-2, 9.37 ERA)
Jon Lester really hasn't been himself this year, but he has kept the Red Sox alive in his last few starts. And, with rising strikeout numbers and declining walks, it's possible he's on track for a breakthrough sometime soon. His cutter has looked better recently than in previous starts--which is to say it's actually been useful--and while he's not faced the best of lineups, the Braves are not especially potent against southpaws, either.
Jair Jurrjens has fallen a long way from his impressive 2011. Showing no control or ability to get outs in his first four starts of the season, leading to a quick demotion. With no great improvement being shown in Triple-A, the Braves have nonetheless had to call him up to make the start against the Red Sox, who are playing nothing like a Triple-A team right now despite the presence of players like Will Middlebrooks, Ryan Kalish, and Daniel Nava in the lineup. This is not a game the lineup should struggle in.
Saturday, June 23, 7:15 p.m. EST
Franklin Morales (0-1, 3.14 ERA) vs. Randall Delgado (4-7, 4.12 ERA)
Nobody was quite sure what to expect from Franklin Morales in his first start in years, but even taking into account his successful long-relief appearances, nobody was expecting the nine strikeouts in five innings he provided. Had it not been for some unfortunate sequencing, he might have even gotten out of it without the two runs, but unfortunately the four baserunners he allowed managed to ground together for a pair of runs. It would be...optimistic to expect more of the same, but Morales has certainly provided some reason to get excited about Saturday rather than apprehensive.
Patience is the greatest of virtues against Randall Delgado, who is very prone to the walk but makes up for it by inducing ground balls with plenty of changeups. If the Sox let Delgado hang himself with balls and bad counts rather than playing into his style with too much aggression, they could see some reasonable success.
Sunday, June 24, 1:35 p.m. EST
Clay Buchholz (8-2, 5.53 ERA) vs. Mike Minor (3-5, 6.04 ERA)
Clay wasn't as impressive in his last start as he had been in his four preceding outings, but he still had a lot of the aspects to his game that had made him so successful in those games. So long as he doesn't lose the positives and revert to the wreck from the first two months, and so long as the Braves don't suddenly acquire Logan Morrison, Sox fans shouldn't worry too much about Buchholz.
Mike Minor is not going to like Fenway Park. A left-handed fly ball pitcher with big home run trouble? Against a lineup that can be specifically tailored to hit home runs off of left-handed pitchers? It's a train wreck waiting to happen.