If they complete their first three-game road sweep of the season with a win against the Mariners today and the A's can grab another win in Tampa Bay this afternoon, the Red Sox will find themselves back in first place as they prepare to host the Yankees at Fenway this weekend.
It's a 4:40 p.m. start for the Sox against the AL-worst Mariners. Clay Buchholz (2-5, 5.88), who has struggled in his two starts since being called up from Pawtucket earlier this month, takes the hill for Boston.
The 23-year-old Sox starter has allowed seven first-inning runs over his last three starts. "We talked about it a little bit just as far as maybe doing it all the same in warmups and maybe when I get about three-quarters of the way through, maybe sit down for a little bit in the bullpen for about five minutes and then get up and finish the rest of it," Buchholz said of his pregame bullpen routine. "And then go back and try to manipulate the sitting down and getting back up for the first time and see how that works and maybe we can break that first inning barrier that's there right now."
According to today's Denver Post, the Colorado Rockies asked the Sox to part with Buchholz in exchange for closer Brian Fuentes, though that scenario seems extremely unlikely.
For the M's, Felix Hernandez (7-6, 2.95 ERA) gets the start. On June 6 at Fenway, the 22-year-old righthander gave up six hits in six shutout innings as the Mariners beat the Sox 8-0, putting an end to the Sox' 13-game winning streak at Fenway. On May 26 in Seattle, Hernandez gave up five runs over 7 2/3 innings as the Sox beat the Mariners 5-3. Since May 31, Hernandez is 5-1 with a 1.84 ERA in seven starts.
Sox players to watch: J.D. Drew is 7-for-14 against Hernandez; Sean Casey is 4-for-9 against the Mariners righthander.
It's a 12:40 p.m. start in St. Petersburg, where the first-place Rays (58-41) try to take the rubber game of their three-game series against the A's (52-48). Righthander James Shields (8-6, 3.69) takes the mound for Tampa Bay and lefthander Greg Smith (5-8, 3.79 ERA) gets the start for Oakland.
In another afternoon tilt down in the Bronx, the hard-charging Yankees (55-45) will try to complete a perfect six-game homestand and run their winning streak at Yankee Stadium to 10 games when they close out a three-game series vs. the Twins (55-45) in a 1:05 p.m. start.
Mike Mussina (12-6, 3.49 ERA), takes the hill for the Yankees. The veteran righty is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA in his last three starts. Lefthander Glen Perkins (7-2, 3.84) looks to win his fourth consecutive start for the Twins.
New York currently sits in third place in the AL East, 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Rays. The Bombers are just two games behind the Red Sox in the loss column.