Sox in Cincy for first time since 1975

Sox in Cincy for first time since 1975

BOSTON -- For the first time since the epic 1975 World Series, the Boston Red Sox will play a baseball game in Cincinnati. In fact, they will play three of them, beginning with Friday night's opener, which marks the resumption of Interleague Play.

The Big Red Machine of Johnny Bench, Joe Morgan, Pete Rose and Tony Perez beat the Red Sox in seven games back in '75. The only time the Sox have played Cincinnati since then was in 2005 for a three-game Interleague series at Fenway. Boston swept that one.

There are several other interesting subplots to the weekend.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona played for the 1987 Reds, a team managed by Rose. Francona also managed many times at Riverfront Stadium when he was with the Phillies. But this will mark his first visit to the Reds' new digs, Great American Ball Park.

"I'm kind of looking forward to that," said Francona.

But Francona isn't necessarily looking forward to playing under National League rules, which means that his pitchers have to bat.

"I've never quite understood the fairness, but we've overcome it [in the past]," he said. "So have a lot of other teams. You do the best you can."

Right-hander Justin Masterson, who will take the ball against Aaron Harang on Friday, estimates that he last swung a bat four or five years ago.

"I'm excited to see what happens," said Masterson. "I've been taking some BP. The swing feels good, but it's like softball. I'm a softball guy. I can handle BP. I haven't seen a live pitch in five years, and now I'm facing Aaron Harang."

The weekend will also mark homecomings for both Boston first basemen -- Kevin Youkilis and Sean Casey. Youkilis was born and raised in Cincinnati, and he also went to college there. He will have a huge contingent of family and friends on hand. Then there is Casey, who earned the nickname "The Mayor" while playing for the Reds from 1998-2005.

Casey will get the start on Friday, and is likely to receive a warm ovation.

The main thing the Red Sox would like to do this weekend is establish some type of momentum on the road, where they have a 14-20 record this season.

"Hopefully, we'll figure it out," said Francona. "Because, ultimately, if we want to get to where we want to go, we're going to have to play better on the road."

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Justin Masterson (3-0, 2.59 ERA)
In a rotation filled with talent and experience, it is Masterson who has shown perhaps the most consistency so far in the young season. Though he's made just four starts, the Sox are 3-1 when he takes the mound. He's allowed one run or fewer in three of those outings, shutting down the Mariners for one run in six innings in his last start, on Sunday. But he also has shown the ability to escape difficult jams with minimal damage.

CIN: RHP Aaron Harang (2-9, 4.31 ERA)
Since making a surprise relief appearance on May 25, Harang has mostly entered tough times. In 15 1/3 innings since then, he has yielded 16 earned runs. And his worst game was his last -- seven earned runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Marlins on Sunday. Hanley Ramirez did a lot of the damage, with a pair of two-run homers. It was the most earned runs Harang has given up in a game since Sept. 12, 2004, against Milwaukee. The 11 hits he allowed against the Marlins pushed him, however temporarily, to the top of the National League in hits allowed. He has been plagued by a lack of run support, with the Reds averaging only two runs per game in his losses.

Interleague record: 108-88 overall, 3-0 in 2008

2008 Interleague schedule
• May 17 vs. Brewers: Won, 5-3
• May 17 vs. Brewers: Won, 7-6
• May 18 vs. Brewers: Won, 11-7
• June 13 at Reds
• June 14 at Reds
• June 15 at Reds
• June 16 at Phillies
• June 17 at Phillies
• June 18 at Phillies
• June 20 vs. Cardinals
• June 21 vs. Cardinals
• June 22 vs. Cardinals
• June 23 vs. Diamondbacks
• June 24 vs. Diamondbacks
• June 25 vs. Diamondbacks
• June 27 at Astros
• June 28 at Astros
• June 29 at Astros

J.D. Drew remains red-hot. During his 11-game hitting streak, he's batting .500 (18-for-36) with five doubles, six homers and 15 RBIs. ... Manny Delcarmen is unscored upon in his last eight appearances. ... Youkilis snapped a 20-game homerless streak on Thursday.

 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WRKO 680, SBN 1150 (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Red Sox (Tim Wakefield, 4-4, 4.33) at Reds (Edinson Volquez, 9-2, 1.56), 3:55 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 6-4, 4.22) at Reds (Homer Bailey, 0-2, 6.30), 1:15 p.m. ET
• Monday: Red Sox (Bartolo Colon, 4-1, 3.41) at Phillies (Cole Hamels, 6-4, 3.27), 7:05 p.m. ET

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.