Sox set for doubleheader with Halos

Sox set for doubleheader with Halos

Temperatures have been rising steadily in Boston this summer, and there's no disputing this theory: the Yankees have controlled the dial, boiling seven games off the Red Sox's American League East lead since July 5. Now, Boston is preparing to fight fire with fire.

Enter Clay Buchholz, a right-handed Texan with stuff to match his moxie. Red Sox fans know of Buchholz as the best pitching prospect the team has produced since Jonathan Papelbon. Standing tall and wiry at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, Buchholz, who turned 23 on Tuesday, leads the Minor Leagues in strikeouts. On Friday, he'll start in the Majors for the first time.

And so it begins with a Friday day-night doubleheader against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Like the Red Sox, the Halos started hot and have done just enough in the AL West to hold off a surging rival. Since June 24, Los Angeles is 20-21, its lead over Seattle shrinking from eight games to three.

As for the Yankees? Curiously, the Orioles stopped the Bombers in the Bronx in consecutive games on Tuesday and Wednesday, allowing the Red Sox to reclaim a game in the AL East standings. With the opportunity to rest on Thursday, Boston enters Friday reloaded and riding an 18-9 home record since June 15.

The Red Sox recovered their footing from an early August skid by taking two out of three from the Rays this past week.

"We're just looking forward to another series," said Jason Varitek, following the team's loss on Wednesday against the Rays in which it nearly completed an improbable ninth-inning comeback. "Hopefully, we keep this momentum of fighting through games, and carry it through the whole weekend."

But if it's a fight the Red Sox want, Buchholz gives them as good a spot-start option as there is in the Minors. Owner of a 2.15 ERA in 117 innings between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, Buchholz will be called up on Friday in time to make the first pitch in Game 1 of the twin bill at 1:05 p.m. ET.

After his start, it is believed that Buchholz will be shuttled back down to the Minors so the Red Sox can use his roster spot on a reserve outfielder, such as Jacoby Ellsbury. It is unclear if Buchholz will return to the active roster before Aug. 31, at which point players must be on the big league roster to be eligible for the playoffs.

But as Boston knows, it's not all about Buchholz. Fellow Texan and staff ace Josh Beckett, chasing the first Cy Young Award of his career, will start in the 7:05 nightcap. As the Yankees host the sputtering Tigers in New York this weekend, the Red Sox will need contributions from up and down the roster.

"We're ready every day," said Red Sox shortstop Julio Lugo, happily hitting .372 since Aug. 1 (19-for-51), with seven doubles in 12 games. "This team's ready every day. We have a lot of guys here who are prepared to play every day."

Pitching matchup
Game 1
BOS: Clay Buchholz (Major League debut)
Red Sox Nation will be watching to see if Buchholz's extraterrestrial curveball is the real deal. Buchholz also commands a plus changeup and an above-average slider, while his fastball runs in the mid- to low-90s. He will likely benefit from facing the Angels, an aggressive lineup lacking in thump.

LAA: RHP John Lackey (15-6, 3.07 ERA)
Only Los Angeles' desire to start Lackey in the first game prevents a showdown between the Majors' only 15-game winners. Lackey possesses the same hard stuff and exceptional command that made him a breakout hit in the 2002 playoffs as a 23-year-old rookie. As the Angels' ace and an annual contender for the AL Cy Young Award, Lackey has struggled in his career against the Red Sox, going 1-5 with a 5.75 ERA.

Game 2
BOS: RHP Josh Beckett (15-5, 3.24 ERA)
Beckett came within one out of his third career shutout against the Orioles in his last start. With a 1.76 ERA in a pair of starts since Aug. 1 and a 2.78 ERA since the All-Star break, the Red Sox's undisputed ace is putting together the kind of second wind to his season that results in Cy Young Awards. He has fared well against the Angels, winning both of his career starts against them.

LAA: RHP Ervin Santana (5-11, 6.22 ERA)
As Beckett's career has taken off since the 2006 season, Santana's has traveled steadily south. Still considered an intriguing pitching prospect by some, the 24-year-old right-hander has nonetheless yielded a 6.22 ERA with 136 hits and 42 walks in 110 innings, a year after winning 16 games.

Player to watch
Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, whose weakened stroke and balky shoulder have nevertheless resulted in a team-leading 19 homers, owns a .414 average in his career against Santana and Lackey, with two home runs.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WRKO 680, WROL (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Angels (Jered Weaver, 8-5, 3.85) at Red Sox (Curt Schilling, 6-5, 4.06), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Angels (Joe Saunders, 6-1, 3.50) at Red Sox (Tim Wakefield, 14-10, 4.55), 2:05 p.m. ET
• Monday: Red Sox (TBD) at Devil Rays (Scott Kazmir, 9-7, 3.44), 7:10 p.m. ET

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