Boston bats clicked early and often to lead the Red Sox to an easy victory in Monday's series opener against the Philadelphia Phillies. A fourth consecutive win also helped the Red Sox back into sole possession of first place in the AL East for the first time since May 7.
Thursday's Series Finale
By: Willie Bee
It has been a hard climb for the Philadelphia Phillies, but a .500 record is finally within their grasp after taking a second straight from the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday.
The squads finish up their home-&-home interleague series tonight at Citizens Bank Park where a late pitching change sent sports books back to work on the MLB odds. Boston is pushing Jon Lester back a day, and instead will send Franklin Morales to the hill for his season debut opposite Jonathan Pettibone for the Phillies. The moneyline started with Boston -130 and an 8.5 run total favoring the OVER.
Four solo homers powered the Phils to a 4-3 triumph last night, two of the blasts by Dominic Brown who now has 13 on the season to put him one off the National League lead. Jonathan Papelbon picked up his second straight save vs. his former club, though it was s shaky ninth inning.
The win left the Phillies 26-27 to cut the gap to 5.5 games behind the Braves in the NL East. Philadelphia's last taste of .500 came 10 games into the season. Despite the loss, Boston still maintained its lead in the American League East thanks to the New York Yankees dropping their fourth straight.
Morales has seen the Phillies 10 times during his career, including playoff action while he was with the Rockies, but only one of those appearances came as a starter. That assignment was Game 2 of the 2007 NLDS, and he lasted just three innings while allowing three runs, one of them a Jimmy Rollins homer. The lefthander has spent the first two months of 2013 rehabbing assorted injuries at three different minor league levels for Boston, making a total of five starts and posting a 3.18 ERA in 17 frames.
Pettibone has never gone up against the Red Sox before, but the 22-year-old former 3rd-round pick hasn't been fazed by any lineup so far. The Phillies are 6-1 behind their young righty, a perfect 4-0 in Philly. Boston is 20-13 against right-handed starters, the best win percentage in the AL.
It's going to be warm in Philadelphia today, eventually climbing into the 90s and still in the upper-80s for the start of this contest. The weatherman is also calling for an 8-10 mph breeze out of the southwest, which could help fly balls going out to right.
Bill Miller is set to work his 12th game behind the plate, with seven of the previous 11 never reaching the total, including four of the last five. The 16-year veteran was also a friend to UNDER bettors last year when 21 of his 34 plate assignments fell short.
I'm going to look for the two offenses to open up this evening with a play on the OVER.My pick: Red Sox-Phillies Over 8.5 (-110)
Wednesday's Game Three
By: Willie Bee
Cliff Lee is on a roll, and that's why the Philadelphia Phillies are coming off the road all even at a game apiece in their home-&-home interleague series with the Boston Red Sox.
The scene now shifts to the City of Brotherly Love for the next two contests, and Wednesday's matchup on the mound features a couple of native Texans going at it as John Lackey gets the call for the Red Sox against Philadelphia's Kyle Kendrick. Tagged as the slight favorites are the Red Sox, priced around -115 on the moneyline, with most betting outlets monitored by SBR's live MLB odds listing an 8 run total that is juiced to the high side.
Philadelphia won its fifth straight game with Lee on the hill as the veteran lefty turned in another dominant performance. Lee worked the initial eight innings of Tuesday's 3-1 triumph, allowing just four hits while striking out eight, and Jonathan Papelbon closed things out with a 1-2-3 ninth in his first appearance at Fenway Park since shucking his Red Sox jersey following the 2011 season.
Lackey has looked as good as ever his last two starts, combining for 13 innings and giving up just three hits plus a couple of unearned runs in wins at Minnesota and at Fenway Park last week vs. Cleveland. He has seen the Phillies three times since joining the Red Sox, most recently in 2011. Lackey is 1-2 in those efforts, with both losses coming at Citizens Bank Park (12.2 IP, 6 ER).
Kendrick's last two outings have not gone so well after he strung together seven straight quality starts from April 10 to May 12. The righty's ERA in that stretch was 1.83, but he came back down to earth against the Reds and Nationals with 11 total innings, eight walks and nine runs allowed.
He has also had zero success vs. Boston over the years, with tonight's game his first appearance against the Red Sox in nearly three seasons. Two starts and two long relief outings have yielded three losses and 10.80 ERA in less than 12 innings. The good news is the two hitters that gave him the most trouble in those games, Mike Lowell and JD Drew, won't be in Boston's lineup on Wednesday.
There is a 20% chance of rain beginning in the late afternoon and running through the evening, but all signs point to this game coming off without a hitch. The thermometer will still be in the low-to-mid 80s for Kendrick's first pitch, with a light breeze from the southwest (out to right).
Boston is 14-7 at Citizens Bank Park over the years, and I like the Sox to add to that mark with a victory tonight as small road chalk.
My pick: Red Sox -116 at Bet365
Tuesday's Game Two
By: Willie Bee
The Red Sox will look to extend their win streak before heading out on the road for the rest of the week, and MLB odds suggest they'll get it with Boston chalked around the -130 price. What Game 1 lacked in name recognition for the mound duel, Game 2 makes up for that with Cliff Lee slated for the Phils opposite Ryan Dempster.
Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli ignited the 9-3 triumph Monday with first-inning home runs. Daniel Nava was the only starter in Boston's lineup not to get in on the action that included 15 hits, seven of them for extra bases. The Red Sox rank third in the American League averaging just over five runs per game, and also third with a team .780 OPS.
Lee has done a pretty good job quieting offenses his last four starts, each a Philadelphia victory. The veteran lefty is coming off a complete game shutout in Miami last Wednesday, and has limited opposing lineups to just four runs in his last 31 innings. He has split his last two decisions vs. the Red Sox, and is appearing at Fenway Park for the first time since July 2010 when he was with Texas.
Dempster hasn't had a lot of luck against Philadelphia, a history that dates back to 1999 when he was in his second big league season with the Marlins. The last time he squared off against the Phils was 2011 while he was with the Cubs, and outing Dempster would just as soon forget (3 IP, 6 ER).
Clouds will dominate the Boston skies tonight when temps are in the mid-60s for the start of the game, but no rain is expected and only a light southerly breeze (out to left). Umpire Todd Tichenor started the season with three UNDERS and a push on the totals board, but four of his six plate assignments since then have gone OVER.
Tuesday's total is 8 runs, and the way Boston's bats are going (30 runs last four games) and Dempster is pitching (15 runs allowed, 11 BB in last 12.2 IP), the OVER is tempting enough to take it for my free play tonight.
My pick: Phillies-Red Sox Over 8 (-110)
Memorial Day Opener
By: Willie Bee
Injuries are preventing us from seeing a top-notch pitching matchup Monday when the Boston Red Sox host the Philadelphia Phillies for the first of two games at Fenway Park. If both rosters were fit as a fiddle, we might have seen unbeaten Clay Buchholz taking on 2-time Cy Young winner Roy Halladay in the series opener.
Instead, we're stuck with Tyler Cloyd hurling for the Phils and Alfredo Aceves going for the BoSox, not exactly the kind of duel that leads to a lot of pre-game excitement. Then again, it's the post-game excitement from cashing a winning ticket that is foremost on a bettor's mind, and adjusted MLB odds facing gamblers have Boston laying -150 with a 9.5 run total.
Philadelphia hits town at the end of an 8-game road trip that that began with a couple of wins in three tries at Miami last week before dropping two of three in Washington over the weekend. Treading water in the middle of the NL East pack, the Phillies (24-26) are 6.5 behind the front-running Atlanta Braves and also sporting 6.5 units of red ink on the year.
Boston is coming off three straight wins vs. the Indians this past weekend, winning in dramatic fashion on Saturday and Sunday, and begins the ninth week of the schedule just percentage points behind the New York Yankees at the top of the AL East. Boston backers are up a little more than five units and have been on the winning side of the ledger nine of the past 12 games.
Red Sox Skip Buchholz's Turn in Rotation On Monday
Cloyd was the Phillies' choice to replace Roy Halladay when the star pitcher was placed on the DL earlier this month. Because of the way the schedule worked out, Philadelphia hasn't needed him full-time with Monday's outing just his third assignment.
The two starts he has made were both quality efforts, the most recent going into the win column with seven innings of 2-run baseball at Miami last Tuesday. Monday will be his third straight road assignment, and first-ever vs. an American League club.
Clay Buchholz was originally in line to start this game, but Boston will hold their righthander back due to some soreness in his right collarbone. Aceves, who was demoted earlier this season after getting into manager John Farrell's doghouse, is making his first career start vs. the Phillies, though he has a couple of relief appearances against them over the years. He made four starts while down at Triple-A Pawtucket, going 2-1 with a 3.13 ERA and 21 K's in 23 innings.
Series History Favors Red Sox
Boston has the 29-20 advantage in this series, not counting taking the 1915 World Series in five games. The Red Sox are 13-7 in games played at Fenway Park as the clubs prepare to meet for the sixth consecutive season.
Philadelphia hosted all six games played the past two years, but four of the last six played in Boston finished above the total.
A rather unpleasant weekend in Beantown gives way to a very nice Memorial Day for our baseball picks, when afternoon highs are supposed to cross into the low-70s. It should be around 66ºF at first pitch with clear skies and a very light WNW breeze (out to right).
One of the best sidebar stories for this series will be Philly closer Jonathan Papelbon's return to Boston for the first time since leaving the Red Sox following the 2011 season. Can he handle closing out a game under pressure with Boston fans in his ear? I don't think he'll get a chance on Monday, and will make my play on the run line behind the surging Sox.
Another interleague series we're following is taking place in the Windy City where the White Sox host the Cubs for the first of four games between the rivals on Monday.
My pick: Red Sox -1.5 (+130)