Red Sox going for baker's dozen

Red-hot Sox look to continue NL East success

Riding a 12-game winning streak, the Red Sox will look to remain the hottest team in baseball as they head south to Florida to begin an 11-game road trip, having already swept every other team in the National League East in the past two weeks.

Presented with the duty of keeping Boston's streak alive will be the newest member of the Red Sox, right-hander Jason Johnson. Acquired on June 21 from the Cleveland Indians, Johnson will be making his first start since June 19, when he allowed six runs and six hits in six innings. It was his fourth loss in as many starts.

"I was having the worst year of my career so far. It's just the way it goes sometimes," Johnson said. "Sometimes you have off years. That's why it's so big to come over here and try to turn it around."

Squaring off against him will be the Marlins left-hander Dontrelle Willis, who is having a disappointing season of his own, having had his ERA jump from last season from 2.63 to 4.05 and his win tota dwindle from 22 wins to just four so far in the season. Willis has come on strong, however, pitching considerably better in the past month.

Johnson is 0-2 with a 6.46 ERA in his career against Florida and is 2-3 with a 6.82 ERA on the road this year.

However, with Boston's defense completing its 16th straight game without committing an error (an American League record), Johnson's sinkerball style of pitching might be perfectly suited with the vacuum that has become Boston's infield.

"We've already talked to him about that a lot," Francona said. "You want to take your players [and] pitchers strengths and make the most out of them. Jason's a smart kid. He sees what's going on here. The more grounders he gets, the better off we're going to be. He knows that. This is a good defensive team."

"Over here, I'm definitely going to get back to the sinking fastball I've always used," Johnson said.

During this winning streak, Boston's bats have shown to be as impressive as the leather in the field, scoring 82 runs over its last 10 games.

"We've swung the bats collectively a lot better ... from top to bottom, we've been pretty consistent," Francona said. "I don't think that has anything to do with Interleague [games]. I just think that lineups go through periods like that."

In a much less-heralded homecoming than Pedro Martinez's visit to Boston this week, Alex Gonzalez will make his return to Florida, having played for the Marlins from 1998-2005.

"I'm looking forward to going back to Florida," Gonzalez said. "I have a lot of memories there. I'll try to play good [and] see all [of] my friends there. We won the World Series there and see a couple of teammates, the fans, my friends. It's exciting to play back there against the Marlins for the first time.

"I still have a couple of friends, guys I knew from the minor leagues, Miguel [Cabrera], Dontrelle Willis. That's what I'm looking forward to."

Gonzalez was a major contributor to the 2003 World Series championship team, hitting a walk-off home run in the 12th inning of Game 4 to tie the series at two with the New York Yankees, which eventually helped propel them to their second championship in only their 11th year of existence.

Gonzalez could not be picking a better time to return to his former stomping grounds. He has committed only one error this season and his bat has been scorching as of late. He has a nine-game hitting streak and his batting average has jumped over 70 points in just over a month.

This is the seventh series between the teams since Interleague Play began in 1997 and their first meeting since 2003. The Red Sox are 11-7 all-time against the Marlins, including postseason. The Red Sox are 14-1 against the National League this year, while the Marlins are 7-8 in Interleague [P]lay.

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Jason Johnson (3-8, 5.96 ERA)
He has had a disappointing first half of the season, allowing 10 or more hits on five occasions.

FLA: LHP Dontrelle Willis (4-7, 4.05 ERA)
Willis picked up his first loss since May 27 in his last start against the Yankees, but the left-hander pitched a strong eight innings, allowing just two runs on seven hits. His only costly pitch came in the seventh when he gave up a solo home run to Johnny Damon that put the Yankees ahead. Willis has never faced the Red Sox.

Player to watch
Gonzalez, a defensive standout at shortstop, has been equally impressive at the plate lately. Batting .197 on May 21, Gonzalez has raised his average to .270 and has hit safely in his last nine games, including two home runs in his last three games.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WEEI 850 AM, WROL 950 AM (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Red Sox (RHP Tim Wakefield, 5-8, 3.86) at Marlins (RHP Brian Moehler, 5-6, 6.55), 6:05 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Red Sox (LHP Jon Lester, 3-0, 2.95) at Marlins (RHP Josh Johnson, 7-4, 2.20), 1:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Red Sox (RHP Josh Beckett, 10-3, 4.64) at Devil Rays (LHP Scott Kazmir, 9-5, 3.59), 7:15 p.m. ET

Howard Kussoy is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.