Top Teams Collide

The Boston Red Sox and the San Diego Padres are both leading their respective divisions. One team, however, has given itself more room for error than the other.

The surging Red Sox will have red-hot Daisuke Matsuzaka on the mound Friday night when they begin a three-game series against the NL West-leading Padres.

Oddsmakers have made Boston -135 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 7.5 total runs (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 64% of bets for this game have been placed on Boston -135 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Boston (46-25) has rebounded from a season-high four-game losing streak with nine wins in 13 games. Its lead in the AL East, which was reduced to 7 1/2 games on June 14 over the Yankees, is back up to 10 1/2 after New York was swept by Colorado.

J.D. Drew hit a leadoff homer, and the Red Sox went deep four more times to back seven solid innings by Julian Tavarez in an 11-0 win Thursday at Atlanta.

Coco Crisp hit a three-run homer, David Ortiz added a two-run shot and Manny Ramirez and Eric Hinske also connected for Boston, which outscored the Braves 15-0 in the final two games of the series.

The Red Sox haven't had three consecutive shutouts since April 25-29, 2004.

Drew, who has a history of injuries, left the game after his second at-bat with tightness in his right quadriceps. If Drew is unable to play Friday, Wily Mo Pena would likely take his place.

The Red Sox have played their last two games without third baseman Mike Lowell, who has been nursing a sprained left thumb.

Lowell, batting .167 (9-for-54) in his last 15 games, is expected back in the lineup for this game. That is good news for the Red Sox because Lowell is batting .367 (18-for-49) with four homers off Padres starter Greg Maddux (6-3, 3.90).

While this will be the first game for the Red Sox in San Diego, Matsuzaka (8-5, 4,18 ERA) has pitched at Petco Park before. He was named MVP of the inaugural World Baseball Classic there on March 20, 2006, after helping Japan win the title.

"There were a lot of pitchers on the Japanese team," Matsuzaka said on the Red Sox's official Web site. "I just tried to pitch my best. We were on a pitch count, so I threw harder."

The right-hander has rebounded from consecutive disappointing starts in May with three excellent outings this month. Although he has lost two of three decisions in June, Matsuzaka has a 1.80 ERA with nine walks and 25 strikeouts in those games.

The right-hander was outstanding Saturday in a 1-0 win over San Francisco, limiting the Giants to three walks and three hits while striking out eight over seven innings.

The Padres (41-30) own the best record in the NL, but are only percentage points ahead of Arizona in the West after losing two of three to last-place Baltimore.

San Diego's offense was held in check for the second consecutive game Thursday, managing two runs in six innings off Orioles starter Erik Bedard en route to a 6-3 loss. After totaling 12 runs and 15 hits in the series opener, the Padres were limited to four runs and 14 hits in the final two games.

"We need to win ... we're getting our (tails) kicked," San Diego's David Wells said. "It's not fun. We've got to go out and produce."

San Diego has lost five of six at home after winning 20 of its first 29 games at Petco Park.

Maddux seeks the 340th win of his illustrious career. The future Hall of Famer has been outstanding at home, going 5-1 with a 2.75 ERA in six starts. He recorded his first road victory Sunday at Wrigley Field, yielding three runs and seven hits in six innings in an 11-3 win.

Maddux is 5-0 with a 3.42 ERA in seven starts against the Red Sox, last facing them on June 10, 2005, with the Cubs.

by: Dave Michaels - – Email Us

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