Boston dropped two of the first three games on its 10-game road swing and will turn to Jon Lester on Sunday in the series finale against the Indians with the hopes of turning things around. With promising rookie Will Middlebrooks likely out for the remainder of the season with a broken right wrist, the Sox need their rotation to carry the team down the stretch.
Lester has been far better on the road than at Fenway Park this season, with a 3-2 mark and 3.34 ERA away from Boston. Still, the Red Sox are just 8-15 when the left-hander takes the mound this year. He's thrown the ball better over his last three starts, but has gone 0-2 in that span.
The southpaw can't dwell on some of the bad luck and tough breaks that have contributed to a 5-10 record and 5.36 ERA in his 23 outings.
"No, I've got to look at the positives," Lester said. "I've got to keep looking at the positives."
Lester has rediscovered his cutter and used it to compile 17 strikeouts in his last three outings. He'll need to continue to keep the ball down in the zone on Sunday against the Indians. Lester has not lost in six career starts at Progressive Field.
While Boston needs Lester to pitch like the club's ace, Cleveland wants to evaluate starter Corey Kluber as he attempts to notch the win.
Kluber can make a case to remain on the team with a strong outing against the Sox. With the Indians set to activate right-hander Roberto Hernandez on Wednesday, Kluber needs a good performance to convince Cleveland he deserves a spot in the rotation going forward.
Hernandez is set to join Cleveland after seven months of legal issues and four Minor League starts. The Indians will add him later in the week to give Kluber and Chris Seddon a chance to prove they deserve a roster spot.
"It makes no sense for us to activate him now," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "It buys us a couple more days so we can make a decision with the rest of the guys, especially our bullpen. We'll probably need a day or so to get it completely in order and rested."
Red Sox: Ortiz holding out hope for Sunday return
David Ortiz circled Sunday's game for a possible return earlier this week, and the injured slugger could very well be back in Boston's lineup for the final game against Cleveland.
Ortiz took batting practice on Saturday, and Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said the designated hitter felt "great" after resting his injured right Achilles on Friday.
The Red Sox are 10-15 since Ortiz went on the disabled list on July 17, and Valentine did not rule out the possibility of Boston getting back its biggest offensive weapon for Sunday's game.
"I don't know," the manager said. "We're trying to make sure that he has no setback. It only bothers him when he runs straight ahead."
Ortiz is hitting .316 with 23 home runs and 58 RBIs in 89 games this season.
Indians: Kipnis out again
Jason Kipnis will not be in the lineup on Sunday, the result of persistent neck pain. The second baseman was sidelined for the first three games of the series and hopes to return on Monday on the road against the Angels.
"He's making progress," Acta said. "But he's not good enough to be out there yet."
Kipnis was unable to take batting practice on Saturday and did not participate in pregame activities. The Indians will hold him out on Sunday in the hopes of having him back for a 10-day, nine-game West Coast swing that begins Monday.
"At this point it's probably the best thing for us to shut him down for the weekend and then shoot for having him over there in Anaheim," Acta said.
Kipnis is batting .259 with 11 home runs and 14 doubles in 108 games. He leads the Indians with 58 RBIs and 23 stolen bases.
The Red Sox are 15-19 in day games this year.
The Indians are 8-3 in their last 11 games against Boston at Progressive Field since June 9, 2010.