The Red Sox are looking to maintain the momentum gained from sweeping the Twins as they head into Chicago to take on the White Sox in a four-game set.
It seems that the trip out to the Midwest was exactly what the doctor ordered for Boston after their disaster run against the Rangers and Yankees. The same troubles are still there: injuries, the bullpen, and Clay Buchholz to highlight the most important ones. Still, one way or another, even with their worst aspects having a light shined on them, the Sox emerged victorious in three straight games.
Against the White Sox, they will at least be able to avoid that last problem in Clay Buchholz, and at least offensively the Twins and White Sox are fairly similar teams, though the latter seems rather more balanced on the whole. The real challenge for the Sox, however, will lie in the starting pitching, because there are no Nick Blackburns facing the Sox in these next four.
Boston Red Sox (7-10) vs. Chicago White Sox (10-8)
Thursday, April 26, 8:10 p.m. EST
Felix Doubront (0-0, 3.94 ERA) vs. Phil Humber (1-0, 0.63 ERA)
Arguably the most reliable starter three times through the lineup, Felix Doubront was robbed of a well-deserved win last Saturday when the red Sox bullpen coughed up a ridiculous 14 runs to surrender a 9-1 win. We won't go too much further remembering that tragic night, but suffice to say Doubront looked at his best, missing bats and keeping runners off the basepaths, even if it did still take him a few too many pitches to do so.
Phil Humber, of course, is coming off of his perfect game against the Seattle Mariners, which might put some intimidation factor into an otherwise unassuming name. Still, while one can hardly expect Humber to repeat his feat, and he's not exactly a Hall of Famer after one game, Humber has emerged as a surprising late-bloomer out in Chicago after a very successful 2011. Humber can be something of a puzzle on the mound, mixing his low-90s fastball with a plethora of off-speed pitches to keep hitters off balance. Even for an experienced Red Sox team, he should prove a fair challenge.
Friday, April 27, 8:10 p.m. EST
Daniel Bard (1-2, 4.38 ERA) vs. John Danks (2-2, 5.11 ERA)
Daniel Bard makes his return to the starting rotation after a week spent on the sidelines (and one big day in the bullpen). The break was oddly timed, with Bard pitching very well against the Rays in his last outing, only being undone by the terrible decisions of one Bobby Valentine, not to mention the work of the bullpen. Hopefully the layoff hasn't hurt his rhythm.
After a down 2011, John Danks is off to a slow start in 2012, allowing either three or four earned runs in each of his first four starts. The problem for the Red Sox will be whether that's even enough. While most teams would be happy to put up four runs in five innings, that seems like a bullpen disaster just waiting to happen.
Saturday, April 28, 7:10 p.m. EST
Jon Lester (0-2, 6.00 ERA) vs. Jake Peavy (3-0, 1.88)
Jon Lester has clearly remembered it's April, and has responded by imploding against the Twins and Rangers. Right now the lefty simply doesn't look right, and it'll be hard to trust him much more than Clay Buchholz until he actually turns things around and finds his rhythm like he does around this time every year.
Jake Peavy, on the other hand, is suddenly himself again. With strong outings against the likes of Detroit and Texas, and predictably dominant ones against Baltimore and Oakland, Peavy seems to be recapturing what made him great before he was worn down by injuries. At 31-years-old, he's not too old to find his full form again, either.
Sunday, April 29, 2:10 p.m. EST
Josh Beckett (2-2, 4.56 ERA) vs. Gavin Floyd (1-3, 3.60 ERA)
After a terrible start to the season, Josh Beckett has settled down and is working his numbers back down into respectable territories. While his last outing against Minnesota wasn't exactly dominant, and had some scary moments early on, Beckett rebounded very nicely in the later innings, and left with just two runs in six innings. More of the same against the White Sox--preferably without the shaky start--and the Sox will be feeling good that they've still got their ace.
A possible trade target over the offseason, Gavin Floyd has had something of a bipolar season so far, dominating the Tigers and Athletics while getting picked apart by Texas and Baltimore. The good news is that if Floyd keeps this trend up, he'll get knocked around something good by the Red Sox. The bad news is that he's generally a good pitcher, and has given Boston plenty of trouble in the past.