The Boston Red Sox opened this three-game home set with the New York Yankees with a low-scoring victory, and runs could be at a premium in the second matchup.
Boston's John Lackey and New York's Hiroki Kuroda are among the AL's ERA leaders, and they meet for the first time Saturday with the Red Sox in search of a sixth straight home win.Boston (59-39) won 4-2 on Friday. All the runs were charged to starters Felix Doubront and Andy Pettitte, who both went 6 1/3 innings with Doubront earning the victory.It figures to be a tight duel between right-handers Saturday. Kuroda (8-6, 2.65 ERA) is second in the AL in ERA and Lackey (7-6, 2.78) is fourth.Lackey, who missed all of 2012 due to elbow surgery and was on the disabled list in April with a biceps injury, is 4-1 with a 1.32 ERA in six home starts. He has yielded two runs or fewer in a six-outing stretch in which he is 4-1 with a 2.30 ERA since June 15.That ERA since that date matches Kuroda's in the same span over five outings. Kuroda enters with a scoreless innings streak of 12, but his ERA on the road (3.65) is far worse than his home mark (1.74).Kuroda is 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in two starts against Boston this year, although one outing was cut short when he left in the second inning with a bruised middle finger on his throwing hand.Dustin Pedroia is 8 for 18 with a homer against Kuroda, and David Ortiz is 4 for 6 and has gone deep once.Lackey hasn't faced the Yankees (51-45) this year. He's 3-2 with a 4.74 ERA against them in seven starts since joining the Red Sox in 2010.He has faced Ichiro Suzuki more than any player, with the Yankees outfielder hitting .304 in 102 at-bats. Robinson Cano is a .302 hitter against him.Cano went 1 for 3 with a walk Friday as he showed no ill effects after leaving Tuesday's All-Star game with a bruised quadriceps. The second baseman is 3 for 22 against Boston this year, with New York losing five of seven.Boston center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury went 2 for 3 with a homer Friday and is batting .396 over his last 23 games."It seems like he's been hitting .700," manager John Farrell said. "His timing has been much more Jacoby-like. And his ability to get on base speaks for itself with the havoc he can create."New York has lost three straight and six of nine after the opener of a 10-game stretch that includes games against Tampa Bay and Texas."You can't take too much of it, but obviously this is an important stretch for us that we are in," manager Joe Girardi said. "We understand that. The next three teams we play are all in front of us. We need to play well."Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino exited in the third inning Friday with left hamstring tightness, and New York's Zoilo Almonte came out in the fifth with a left ankle sprain. Almonte, who was wearing a boot and using crutches after the game, will be placed on the 15-day disabled list Saturday.
Among players to appear in at least 40 games, Jose Iglesias leads the majors in hitting when protecting the plate this season, compiling a .368 batting average in at-bats ending in a two-strike pitch out of the zone. His career average in similar at-bats before this year was .067.