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Red Sox aim to step it up on the road

Red Sox aim to step up on road

BOSTON -- Relatively speaking, the Red Sox are one of the top road teams in the American League. In a more realistic sense, they have some work to do before they can be viewed as a consistent threat to win away from Fenway Park.

Despite nine road victories, which falls just three shy of Tampa Bay and Texas for the AL lead (12), Boston is eager to improve upon its play in opposing venues. The Sox get that chance over the next 11 days, as they embark on a 10-game road swing through Minnesota, Toronto and Detroit.

"We're going to get a good test in these 10 days here," said left fielder Jason Bay. "People want to know the difference between road and home [performance], and I can't really put my finger on it. There's really no rhyme or reason, it just kind of works out that way.

"Most teams play well at home. Whether it's because of that comfort factor, I'm not sure, but you have to win on the road to be a serious team in this league."

In keeping with what is seemingly a franchise tradition, the 2009 Red Sox have used hitter-friendly Fenway Park as a springboard for strong play. Their 17 home wins are tops in the AL, which did not feature a single team with a winning road record entering Sunday.

It's probably no coincidence that the meat of Boston's 11-game winning streak earlier this season came at Fenway, where they reeled off nine straight victories from April 17-26. Carrying that same momentum into other ballparks remains a task easier said than done.

"I think the best way to get on a roll is to pay attention to tomorrow," said manager Terry Francona. "That's the best way to do it. For a while now, we haven't won as much on the road as we need to. I think our successes at home have outweighed the struggles on the road. But it would be nice to pick it up a little bit on the road."

A glance at the numbers reveals that Boston's road woes can't be pegged entirely on the offense, which naturally forfeits some of its clout without the presence of the Green Monster. The road has been equally unkind to both the hitters and pitchers of the Red Sox, whose .248 batting average and 5.02 ERA away from Fenway pale in comparison to their respective .296 and 4.00 home marks.

Despite those figures, the Sox aren't convinced that a change in geographic location impacts their play.

"It's part of the game," said shortstop Nick Green. "It shouldn't affect us. It's one of those things you just deal with, and yeah it stinks sometimes traveling, but I don't think it's that big of a deal.

"You can't let a park mess with your mind, and I don't think we do that."

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Brad Penny (4-1, 6.07 ERA)
Penny pitched into the seventh inning for the third time in as many starts on Wednesday at Fenway Park, handcuffing the Blue Jays over 6 2/3 innings of two-run ball to pick up his fourth victory of the season. The power righty kept Toronto in check with a steady diet of fastballs, inducing a bevy of fly-ball outs. In two career starts against Minnesota, Penny is 1-0 with a 5.25 ERA.

MIN: LHP Francisco Liriano (2-5, 6.04 ERA)
One bad inning did Liriano in last Wednesday against the White Sox in a big way. The left-hander threw 37 pitches in a seven-run fourth inning that included two doubles and two home runs. He was relieved after four innings, having watched his ERA balloon to 6.04. Liriano said he was missing his spots, working too quickly and overthrowing when runners reached base. The loss was his first since April 22 at Boston. Liriano allowed seven runs over four innings in that game, and will look to improve upon that outing this time around.

Tidbits
Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to a career-high 19 games Sunday with a second-inning double. ... The Red Sox enter Monday's matinee against the Twins in sole possession of first place in the AL East for the first time since July 17, 2008. ... Right fielder J.D. Drew is batting .393 (11-for-28) over his past eight games, a stretch that began May 18.

Tickets
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On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• NESN

On radio
• WEEI 850, SBN 1150 (Español)

Up next
• Tuesday: Red Sox (Jon Lester, 3-4, 5.91) at Twins (Nick Blackburn, 3-2, 3.83), 8:10 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Red Sox (Daisuke Matsuzaka, 0-2, 10.32) at Twins (Kevin Slowey, 6-1, 4.23), 8:10 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 4-2, 5.01) at Twins (Anthony Swarzak, 1-0, 0.00), 1:10 p.m. ET

John Barone is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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