With their first series win of August finally in the bag courtesy of the Kansas City Royals, the Red Sox will begin a dreaded West Coast trip with a three-game set against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
It took the Sox long enough to win 3-of-4 (when 2-of-3 proved impossible), but they don't seem terribly likely to turn it into a significant winning streak. After all, even before they sent Adrian Gonzalez to the Angels' cross-town rivals, they were incapable of beating them in Fenway Park, much less on the West Coast where the Sox have to start playing when they'd normally be finishing games.
Still, they're not about to forfeit the last 30-odd games of the season, and if nothing else, they'll start seeing more of the youth players who could make an impact in the future. Case in point: Zach Stewart, lined up to start Wednesday.
Boston Red Sox (62-67) at Los Angeles Angels (66-62)
Tuesday, August 28, 10:05 p.m. EST
Clay Buchoolz (11-4, 4.47 ERA) vs. Jered Weaver (16-3, 2.74 ERA)
Clay Buchholz struggled through the early innings, and was left out to dry late as he had his first really bad outing of the second half against the Angels. Now he'll have a chance for redemption, but that comes at the price of having to face the same lineup that hammered him for seven just last week. Can he learn from his mistakes and get over the beating, or is Clay reverting to his old unfortunate form?
Jered Weaver suffered no such unusual difficulties against the Red Sox lineup, and shouldn't really be expected too He's clearly not dwelling on that Tampa Bay beatdown, and while the Sox have been capable of putting up runs despite the sudden loss of Adrian Gonzalez, Weaver is unlike any of the pitchers Kansas City threw against them.
Wednesday, August 29, 10:05 p.m. EST
Zach Stewart (1-2, 6.00 ERA) vs. C.J. Wilson (9-9, 3.83 ERA)
The Sox will get their first look at Zach Stewart, acquired from Chicago for Kevin Youkilis back in the first half of the season. At 25-going-on-26, it's past time that the once well-regarded pitcher produce in the major leagues. He's been strong in his short time with the Pawtucket Red Sox, but until he makes it in the Bigs, he won't be regarded as anything more than depth.
C.J. Wilson, of course, was something of a late bloomer himself, and look how he's ended up. Still, as good as Wilson has been at times and on the whole the last few years, he's stuck in a rut right now, with the Sox scoring seven off of him in five innings the game after Tampa Bay did essentially the same. Wilson will have a softer Red Sox team to face this time, but the one thing they more or less retain is their ability to hit left-handed pitching.
Thursday, August 30, 10:05 p.m. EST
Jon Lester (8-10, 4.98 ERA) vs. Zack Greinke (11-5, 3.87 ERA)
Jon Lester finally has his ERA back down under 5.00, and while his outing against Kansas City was far from immaculate, it spoke of a pitcher locked in mentally if not perfect in his form. Pulling back an outing from the brink of disaster, Lester provided his third straight quality start to the Red Sox. Barring a complete shift in momentum, Lester should be solid even against an Angels team that hits southpaws pretty well.
After a very rough start to his Los Angeles career, Zack Greinke seems to have finally found his rhythm, producing 7.2 innings of one-run ball against Detroit. However inconsistent Greinke may be, he's still one of the best pitchers in the game, and not to be underestimated. Lester will have his work cut out for him.