Chicago White Sox vs. Boston Red Sox Preview and Pick – Vazquez vs. Matsuzaka

Chicago White Sox (76-57) +165, 9 at Boston Red Sox (77-56), 7 pm Eastern Friday
by Zman of

The leaders of the American League’s Central Division visit the leaders of the AL wild-card race when the Chicago White Sox and Boston Red Sox begin a three-game weekend series Friday night at Fenway Park.

Baseball Bookies are listing Boston and starting pitcher Diasuke Matsuzaka (15-2, 2.98, 1.38 WHIP) as 180 home favorites for Friday’s game, with a total of 9, while Chicago and Javier Vazquez (10-11, 4.37, 1.28) are getting +165 as road underdogs.

The White Sox just opened a nine-game road trip by taking two of three games in Baltimore.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox are returning home after completing a 6-3 road trip by taking two of three games from the Yankees in New York.

So going into this weekend’s action, Chicago leads the AL Central by 1 1/2 games over the second-place Minnesota Twins, while Boston is in second place in the AL East, 4 1/2 games behind the division-leading Tampa Bay Rays.

But the Red Sox also lead the AL wild-card race by 2 1/2 games over the second-place Twins.

Chicago may be 19 games above .500 this year, but they’re only 30-35 on the road. The White Sox are also 23-30 as underdogs, and 73-60 vs. the run line.

Boston is 43-18 at home this season, 64-36 as favorites, and 68-65 vs. the run line.

In the only previous meeting this season between these two teams, the Red Sox managed a split of a four-game series in Chicago two weeks ago. The totals went 1-3 in that series, as the games averaged 8.3 total runs.

Over his last three starts, including a loss to Tampa last Saturday in which he retired the first 17 batters he faced, Vazquez has allowed five ER and 16 baserunners (hits + walks) in 23 IP. Chicago is 14-12 in Vazquez’ starts this year, the totals 14-11.

Vazquez started twice vs. Boston last year, giving up nine ER and 20 BR in 12 1/3 IP. The White Sox split those two games, with the totals going 1-1.

Over his last three starts, including a shaky performance vs. Toronto last Sunday, Matsuzaka has given up seven ER and 31 BR in 18 IP. Boston is 19-4 in Matsuzaka’s starts this year, the totals 8-13.

Dice-K has started two games vs. the White Sox over the last two years, allowing four ER and 15 BR in 13 IP. The Red Sox split those two, with the totals going 0-2.

Offensively, Chicago ranks 10th in the majors this season in team BA at .268, 9th in team OBP at .340, 2nd in team slugging at .458, and is averaging 5.2 runs per game.

Boston ranks 3rd in batting at .281, 2nd in OBP at .358, 4th in slugging at .446, and is also averaging 5.2 RPG.

Over the last five games, the Chicago bullpen has allowed nine ER and 23 BR in 13 1/3 IP.

Over its’ last five games, the Boston pen has given up seven ER and 23 BR in 19 1/3 IP.

On the injury front, 3B Mike Lowell and OF JD Drew are both on the Boston DL with various ailments. And Matsuzaka was moved up one spot in the rotation to fill in for Josh Beckett, who is dealing with a sore arm.

The totals are 64-65 in White Sox games this year, 62-61 in Red Sox games, and 29-30 in games played at Fenway Park, which are averaging 10.0 total runs this season, 5th-most among all ML ballparks.

Zman’s Pick: I’d love to take a poke at that fat underdog line but the more likely result will be that the game comes in UNDER 9 runs.