The Red Sox will welcome both Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford back to Fenway Park as they take on the Chicago White Sox in a four-game set.
For Kevin Youkilis, it's a return that will in all likelihood be met with cheers. While outside observers were questioning how the former Red Sox infielder would be received by the Fenway Faithful, those closer to the situation--which is to say any and all Red Sox fans--know there's only a few who hold any acrimony with Youkilis.
The actual question will be if the cheers are audible over the shouts of "Yoooooooouuuuuuuk!"
Crawford, on the other hand...while Sox fans will likely give him some leeway to prove himself out of the gates, his disastrous debut in 2011 has cut his leash awfully short.
The good news is that, given the state of the White Sox rotation, Crawford should have a decent opportunity to get started on the right foot.
Boston Red Sox (45-44) vs. Chicago White Sox (49-39)
Monday, July 16, 7:10 p.m. EST
Aaron Cook (2-2, 4.37 ERA) vs. Dylan Axelrod (1-2, 6.16 ERA)
Aaron Cook continues to give the Red Sox solid innings and ground balls, though with Mauro Gomez at third the groundballer was left with a few runs on the board in his last outing against the Athletics. The White Sox are going to be the hardest challenge he's faced yet this year, however, and while Pedro Ciriaco has been occasionally electric in the field, there's still no replacement for Dustin Pedroia. That being said, if he can do his usual thing, he certainly gives the Sox a chance to win.
That's especially true given that rookie Dylan Axelrod has been routinely knocked around this year, and having surrendered three homers in his last full start against the Blue Jays, Fenway Park seems like unfriendly territory for the young righty. Then again, every once in a while the Sox just come up completely empty against an unfamiliar arm, and Axelrod did just shut down the Yankees.
Tuesday, July 17, 7:10 p.m. EST
Jon Lester (5-6, 4.49 ERA) vs. Philip Humber (3-4, 6.01 ERA)
The Red Sox are still waiting for Jon Lester to show up. While an excellent outing in Oakland provided a positive sign, a disaster against New York set things back to square one, if that. The White Sox aren't quite the Yankees, they do have a few guys who can hit lefties--including, of course, Kevin Youkilis. Perhaps the All-Star Break was just what the southpaw needed...but Sox fans won't believe it until they see it.
Phillip Humber has been the imperfect man since his perfect game against the Mariners, leading to an eventual trip to the disabled list. He'll be welcomed back to the mound by the same team that scored nine off of him following his historic outing. Unless the DL trip completely changed who he was on that night in April, this shouldn't be too much of a problem for the Sox.
Wednesday, July 18, 7:10 p.m. EST
Felix Doubront (9-4, 4.41 ERA) vs. TBD
After the second game things get a bit shaky for the White Sox and their injured rotation. The Sox, however, have things ironed out, with their young lefties set to go 1-2--or 3-4 as it were--in the last games of the series. Felix Doubront will get game three, and for the first time in a while there are some very real positive signs for Doubront. While he suffered a three-run first against the Yankees, a good deal of that was the fault of Mauro Gomez at third, and with a nice long layoff perhaps helping with some of the fatigue issues that have been slowing him down, it'll be a start that could give the Sox some very positive signs.
Thursday, July 19, 7:10 p.m. EST
NESN/MLB Network, WEEI
Franklin Morales (2-2, 3.16 ERA) vs TBD
Franklin Morales is also coming off a solid outing--one that helps to put the struggles against the Yankees in the rearview mirror. They could come roaring back, however, if he struggles against another decent lineup like Chicago in the confines of Fenway Park, which he does not seem to be entirely built for. The strikeouts will need to be there, because too much contact in Boston leads to homers.