THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

They’re looking for finishing touch

By Nate Taylor
Globe Correspondent / June 17, 2010

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A common mission in baseball is to win each series. The Red Sox have done so quite well in the last three weeks. And with last night’s 6-2 win over the Diamondbacks at Fenway, the Sox captured their fourth series in five opportunities this month to climb back into the AL East race.

But the next assignment is to finish off a sweep.

In each of the previous four series, the Sox have won the first two games only to lose the final game or the last two. The Sox know it’s a bonus if they can sweep an opponent, and the Diamondbacks, who are last in the National League West, are prime candidates.

“You’re always trying to put your foot on their neck,’’ said Mike Cameron. “Then again, there’s a big league club over there, too.’’

The last time the Red Sox completed a sweep was May 24-26 against the Rays. There have been many reasons why the Sox have not swept more teams this season. In their last series, against the Phillies, the Red Sox ran into Cole Hamels, who pitched seven strong innings. Against Cleveland, former teammate Justin Masterson pitched a gem, then the bullpen allowed the Indians to rally to win the final game of the four-game set. Against the Orioles, Nick Markakis delivered an RBI single in the 11th inning of the finale. And against the Athletics, the Sox came out on the losing end of a slugfest in Game 3.

All are examples of why sweeping a team is difficult. Cameron thinks the Sox could improve their chances of a sweep tonight if they get out to an early lead. He said that will get the crowd into the game. Scoring early helped the Red Sox win the first two games of the series.

“We just have to continue to play good baseball,’’ Cameron said. “We have to score early. If we score early, we put pressure on the other team. That’s always a good sign of a good team.’’

The Sox will be going up against Dan Haren, who at 7-4 has been the Diamondbacks’ ace.

“We’re facing a guy that’s real tough,’’ said Dustin Pedroia. “We have to come out and play real well.’’

David Ortiz believes it’s not that simple. With the Sox winning the first two games of the series fairly easily, Ortiz expects the Diamondbacks to play well, almost with a sense of desperation, meaning the Sox can’t take anything for granted.

“Any situation that the other team doesn’t execute, you have to do some damage,’’ Ortiz said. “That’s what makes it different in a series finale.’’

Still, the Red Sox don’t want to put too much emphasis on getting a sweep. Ortiz said if they continue to win series, they likely will be playing in the postseason.

And Victor Martinez isn’t thinking about a sweep. He simply wants to win the game in front of him.

“It’s just another game,’’ said Martinez. “We’re not really thinking about that. We’re going to show up and see what happens. If we win, we win. If we lose, we lose.’’

Nate Taylor can be reached at ntaylor@globe.com.

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