BOSTON, MA - APRIL 16: Mike Aviles #3 of the Boston Red Sox picks off Ben Zobrist #18 of the Tampa Bay Rays for the out on April 16, 2012 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Boston Red Sox 1-0. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
At the All Star break in 2011, the Red Sox were 22-9 in games started by Josh Beckett and Jon Lester. This season, the Red Sox are 12-20 in games started by the same duo heading into the break.
Franklin Morales has surrendered six home runs this season, four of which were in his last start and represent the only home runs that he has allowed as a starter. Five of the six home runs allowed by Morales this season have come off the fastball. Opponents are hitting .248/.313/.419 this season when the left-hander goes to the fastball and just .188/.250/.313 when he goes to his changeup.
When the Red Sox hit the All Star break last year, David Ortiz was hitting .374 when he saw a fastball, and that mark has dropped to .325 this season. However, the lefty slugger's home run rate has increased from where it was last year at this time from 10.1% to 11% against fastballs.
Clay Buchholz returns to the mound in game two of the four-game set. The key for the Rays will be patience, as opponents have an OPS of 1.093 when ahead in the count, and that mark drops to .681 when they fall behind. However, Buchholz has allowed more home runs when ahead (6) than when he's behind (4).
If the Rays find themselves behind in the ninth inning while facing Alfredo Aceves, they'll have to look to get on base any way that they can. With the bases empty, Aceves has held hitters to a line of .172/.226/.232. But with men on base, opposing batters are hitting .344/.413/.541 in 77 plate appearances, which is no small sample size.
In years past, Josh Beckett has known to be a little fastball happy, but he has done a fine job in mixing in his curveball this season. Of Beckett's 65 strikeouts this year, 23 have come on the fastball, and another 23 via the curveball. The right-hander has whiffed another 15 with the cutter, and just four when going to the changeup. Of Beckett's nine homers allowed, six have come on the fastball, two on the cutter and one on the change.
Once campaigning for a spot on the All Star team, Jarrod Saltalamacchia has found his way into a massive slump, striking out 14 times in his last 30 at-bats. Over that seven-game span, Salty has swung at 50% of the pitches he has seen and swung through 33.3% of them, putting the ball in play just 23.2% of the time his bat comes through the zone. Saltalamacchia has been most susceptible to the fastball and the slider, striking out five times each on the aforementioned pitches.
Gordon Edes takes a look at the dysfunctional clubhouse in Boston. Giggity
Make sure to follow @brianmacp and @TBritton_Projo for this series and moving forward. Brian and Tim do a great job covering the Red Sox beat for the Providence Journal. Britton did his own series preview for this weekend and the two of them recently hosted a chat about what the team faces in the second half.
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