Boston Red Sox

Red Sox: Philly series not a World Series preview

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Red Sox: Philly series not a World Series preview

By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
PITTSBURGH After losing two of three to the Pirates, the Red Sox head to Philadelphia to face the team with the best record in baseball for a three-game series that has some prognosticating a World Series match.

"It's a good challenge," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Like I said in spring training, I think the Red Sox are the best team in baseball. It's going to be two good teams playing against each other, and hopefully we're up for the challenge."

But over the weekend, manager Terry Francona was hesitant to look ahead.

I think its a little dangerous pointing to series because then you got a chance to stumble somewhere else, he said.

I havent really looked at the Phillies as much as you . . . We know the obvious. Their starting pitching, they got dangerous bats, they got some guys nicked up. Theres some guys that we dont know that well have to learn quickly. But theyre good. Theyre veteran."

The Sox are scheduled to face left-hander Cliff Lee on Tuesday. On May 31 Lee was 4-5 with a 3.94 ERA. In four starts since then, he is 4-0 with an 0.27 ERA.

"Were going to see their best on Tuesday," said Francona. "I think hes their best, isnt he? One of their best."

Lee has thrown a combined 33 innings in those games, giving up just one earned run, with complete-game shutouts against the Marlins and Cardinals in his last two. He has not given up a run in his last 23 straight innings.

While the Phillies offense has struggled at times, manager Charlie Manuel knows he will have to rely on his pitching against the team with the American Leagues most potent offense. The Sox, a half game behind the Yankees in the AL East, are batting .277 with 409 runs scored, both tops in the league.

I think we measure up good if our pitchers pitch like hell, Manuel said to the Philadelphia Daily News. If were seeing a better offense, thats where our pitching would have to shine.

As proof that the Sox arent looking past the Phillies, at least one player was surprised to learn who they would face in the series opener.

Cliff Lee? Didnt he just pitch Saturday? Kevin Youkilis said before Sundays game. Are we really going to talk about Philly now? I wasnt even ready to answer questions about today, let alone Philly. I guess go in, and Cliff Lee is a good pitcher but, weve faced him a bunch of times being in Cleveland and Texas. So we know what he has and hopefully we can jump on him early.

Youkilis isnt looking at the series against Phillies as a chance for the Sox to make a statement.

We just try to go out and win ballgames, he said. We dont care who its against. At the end of the season, if you finish in first place, youre winning games against a lot of different teams, youre losing games against a lot of different teams. So, it really doesnt matter. Its just about going out there and playing good ball and trying to win a series.

Im not really interested in the series other than just going out there and playing baseball. I dont look at it as foreshadowing. I dont look at it as something thats going to happen because both teams still have to play a lot more baseball to make it in the playoffs, let alone the World Series. If its in October and were both in the playoffs and were both playing well, then we can talk about it. Until then, its just a series where we got to go out and play some good baseball and hopefully try to take two out of three and hopefully win the series.

But that is something the Sox have not been able to do in their last two series, against the Pirates and Padres. Still, the Sox wont change their approach against the Phillies, Jason Varitek said.

You got to approach it like always, he said. Theyre a very good team and there are a lot of good teams right now. Still, no matter what we do, we just try to focus on ourselves and play good baseball.

We are who we are. So, I dont think it changes. We have to focus really on us and how we play.

But, could this series be a preview of things to come in October?

Well see. Time will tell on that one, Varitek said with a smile.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen

Red Sox move closer to AL East title with 5-0 win over Reds

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Red Sox move closer to AL East title with 5-0 win over Reds

CINCINNATI - Mitch Moreland ended his long slump with a three-run homer, Eduardo Rodriguez pitched three-hit ball into the eighth inning, and the Boston Red Sox took another step toward a second straight AL East title, beating the Cincinnati Reds 5-0 on Saturday.

Boston has won 13 of 16, holding off the Yankees as it tries to win back-to-back East titles for the first time since divisional realignment in 1969. The Red Sox have their best record of the season at 90-64, reaching 90 wins for the second year in a row.

They remain four games in front of the Yankees, who beat Toronto 5-1.

Moreland was in an 0-for-19 slump when he connected off Robert Stephenson (5-6) in the sixth inning, his 20th homer of the season but only his second in September. The Red Sox are last in the AL with 160 homers.

Rodriguez (6-6) has given up two or fewer earned runs in each of his last four starts, the best stretch of his career. The left-hander gave up three singles and two walks in 7 2/3 innings, his longest outing since May 21.

The Red Sox have shutout victories in three of their last four games, including two at Baltimore. They are 7-1 on a trip that ends Sunday. Boston wraps up the regular season at Fenway Park with three games against Toronto and four against Houston.

Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who grew up in suburban Madeira and had hundreds of relatives and friends in the stands for the series, singled home a run in the seventh at the ballpark where he regularly attended games as a youth.

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Betts (foot), Pedroia (knee) out of Red Sox lineup

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Betts (foot), Pedroia (knee) out of Red Sox lineup

Mookie Betts, who fouled a ball off his left foot Friday night, and Dustin Pedroia, who has been bothered by a knee injury almost all season, were out of the Red Sox lineup Saturday against the Reds in Cincinnati.

Chris Young started in right field for Betts and Brock Holt at second base for Pedroia.

Betts was scratched from the original lineup but was a late scratch. Pedroia, who had been getting intermittent days off to rest his knee was originally expected to play but needed treatement and hopes to be able to play Sunday, according to Scott Lauber of ESPN. 

Manager John Farrell told reporters, including Christopher Smith of MassLive.com, that Betts "was hindered by it last night in the second half of that game. [He] woke up a little bit more sore. Went through treatment. But felt it was best to give him a day to fully recover and get some additional treatment."

The manager added that Betts was available to pinch hit Saturday and did not have X-rays, but that step could be taken if there's no improvement in the next 24 hours.