After extending their winning streak against the Seattle Mariners in dramatic fashion, the Boston Red Sox might have a difficult time keeping it going against one of baseball's toughest pitchers.
The AL East-leading Red Sox look for a ninth straight home win over the Mariners on Thursday night when they face ace Felix Hernandez.Boston (65-44) regained a half-game lead over Tampa Bay as Stephen Drew delivered a walk-off single in the bottom of the 15th inning in Wednesday's 5-4 victory. The Rays lost 7-0 to Arizona earlier."It's just huge to get a win out of that game," Drew said. "Back and forth, their bullpen's doing well, our bullpen's doing well. We made some key plays that kept us in it."The Red Sox have enjoyed a bit of a power surge during this 4-1 stretch, hitting nine home runs after totaling eight in their previous 12. They're also batting .304 with nine homers while averaging 6.1 runs during their run at home versus the Mariners (50-57).All-Star Dustin Pedroia has homered in the first two games of this set following a 2-for-35 slump. He's hitting .394 during the streak against Seattle.Now Boston faces a tough test against Hernandez (11-4, 2.34 ERA), who will try to keep the Mariners from dropping their sixth in eight games.The right-hander has gone 6-0 with a 2.18 ERA during an 11-start unbeaten streak, posting a 1.43 ERA in his past six outings.Hernandez was two outs from his first shutout of the season Friday before Minnesota tied it in the top of the ninth and went on to win 3-2 in 13 innings. That's the only run he's allowed in his last 25 innings."Eight innings of Felix, vintage Felix, (but) obviously not a lot of run support for him," said Mariners acting manager Robby Thompson.Hernandez looks for his fourth straight victory over the Red Sox, though each of those came at Safeco Field. He's 3-1 with a 2.53 ERA in six career outings in Boston.Jacoby Ellsbury has had success in this matchup of late, going 5 for 11 with two home runs the past three seasons. Mike Napoli, however, is 6 for 36 (.167) with 14 strikeouts lifetime against Hernandez.The Red Sox seek their sixth straight win overall against the Mariners behind Ryan Dempster (6-8, 4.24).The right-hander hopes to continue a strong stretch by Boston pitchers, who have a 1.94 ERA with 48 strikeouts in their last five games.Dempster hasn't made it through the sixth inning in his last three outings -- posting a 5.79 ERA -- but the Red Sox have won each of them. He earned the victory Saturday in Baltimore, holding the Orioles to two runs over 5 1/3 innings in a 7-3 win.That three-start stretch began when Dempster was tagged for a season-worst seven runs -- four earned -- and nine hits over 3 1/3 innings in an 8-7, 10-inning win July 11.Kyle Seager homered off Dempster in that contest and is hitting .407 (11 for 27) against the Red Sox this season. He batted a major league-best .396 in July.Teammate Kendrys Morales has five hits in the first two games of this set, leaving him 14 for 30 (.467) in his last seven versus Boston.
Felix Hernandez has turned to his changeup in two-strike counts at the 10th-highest rate in the majors this season. The Boston Red Sox are the fourth-worst hitting team in MLB in at-bats that end in two-strike changeups (.145).