BOSTON (AP) -In the Red Sox last five games, their only winning pitchers were Kason Gabbard and Julian Tavarez, and Gabbard is back in the minors.
The rotation that has dominated opponents this season is in a mini-slump. Curt Schilling hasn't won since May 6, an injured Josh Beckett since May 8 and Tim Wakefield since May 10.
The latest meltdown came Wednesday night when Schilling struggled from the start of an 8-3 loss at the New York Yankees. The first three batters he faced all scored and he left after six innings having given up 12 hits, the most he's allowed in a game since April 22, 2004.
``I've got to pitch again in five days,'' said Schilling, ``and I've got to figure it out in the next four.''
Boston's ERA rose from 3.44 to 3.58 in the three-game series at New York, where they lost two. But the Red Sox still lead the second-place Yankees in the AL East by 9 1/2 games.
Last Sunday, in Boston's last game before the New York series, Gabbard pitched five strong innings in a 6-3 win over Atlanta's Tim Hudson. Gabbard had been called up because of Beckett's absence and two doubleheaders in three days. He was returned to Triple-A Pawtucket after the victory.
After Thursday's off day, the Red Sox hottest pitcher, Daisuke Matsuzaka, will work Friday night in the start of a three-game series at Texas. Beckett is set to come off the disabled list and start next Tuesday against Cleveland after suffering a torn flap of skin on the middle finger of his right hand.
``No regrouping, we're just chugging along,'' said closer Jonathan Papelbon, whose only appearance in the New York series was in a non-save situation. ``Obviously, we're not satisfied with this road trip. Now, we've got to go to Texas and try to win there.''
The Rangers don't have as many dangerous hitters as the Yankees. But they do have Sammy Sosa, who could hit his 600th homer against the Red Sox. He has 598 for his career and 10 this season.
``Of course I know him, and though he's probably forgotten, I've met him in the past,'' Matsuzaka said through a translator. ``There are a lot of great hitters in their lineup, including Michael Young and Mark Teixeira, so I won't be focusing on Sammy.''
Matsuzaka is 3-0 with a 1.87 ERA in his last three starts and is 6-2 with a 4.06 ERA for the season. In his last two starts, the rookie from Japan didn't walk a batter and pitched his first major league complete game.
He'll face another hot pitcher, Brandon McCarthy, who is 3-0 with a 2.31 ERA in his last four starts. For the season, McCarthy is 4-4 with a 5.82 ERA.
Wakefield's 1.79 ERA after seven shutout innings at Toronto on May 10 has risen to 3.14 after a 6-2 loss to the Yankees on Monday night. Wakefield (4-5), who faces Vicente Padilla (2-6) on Saturday, is just 4-11 with a 5.63 ERA at the Rangers' park.
Sunday's matchup features Tavarez (3-4, 5.27) against Kameron Loe (1-4, 6.38), who has a 7.60 ERA in his last six starts.
Tavarez got the win Tuesday night against New York, his second straight, and has allowed three runs in 12 2-3 innings.
Schilling, who has allowed 12 runs in his last 17 1-3 innings, gets another chance Monday night when the Red Sox open a six-game homestand - three games against the solid Indians and three against the Yankees.
Boston's most important game in the next week may be when Beckett (7-0) tests his finger against Cleveland. Despite missing two starts, he is still the only pitcher in the majors with seven wins.
On Wednesday, he pitched five innings in the bullpen with a bandage on the injured finger.
``Beckett did well for five innings,'' manager Terry Francona said. ``He's all set.''
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