Red Sox go for crucial series win over Dodgers

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After handing the Los Angeles Dodgers only their fourth loss in August, the host Boston Red Sox aim for a series win when the teams conclude their three-game weekend set on Sunday afternoon.

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The Red Sox evened the series with an 8-5 Saturday win in which Alex Verdugo, Justin Turner and Adam Duvall all hit home runs. Boston enters Sunday’s matchup 3 1/2 games out of the final American League wild-card spot, while Los Angeles is 12 games up in the National League West.

“Every game matters right now, especially in this stretch,” Verdugo said. “We know we’ve got some games to catch up on, to put us in the spot to get to the playoffs. … For us, this is very much playoff baseball.”

Verdugo became the first player in Red Sox history and the third in major league history to hit leadoff home runs in three consecutive games.

“He’s in a good spot right now,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “For everything we’ve been talking about (Mookie Betts), he’s part of the whole trade and the history of DodgersRed Sox. He’s excited about it.”

Meanwhile, Duvall’s homer was his fourth in a six-game span.

Prior to Tuesday’s start at Houston, Boston right-hander Tanner Houck (3-7, 5.08 ERA) had been on the 15-day injured list with a facial fracture since June 18.

Houck allowed three runs on four hits and three walks while striking out two Astros across five innings in his last start.

“A little rocky but I kind of felt like I got back in a groove from the second inning on,” Houck said. “Need to throw more strikes but that will come with timing and getting back in the swing of things.”

All three of Houck’s victories came within his first four starts in April. Despite having gone winless since the opening month, Houck has worked at least five innings in 11 of his 14 outings.

He has never faced the Dodgers.

The Dodgers had won three straight games before Saturday. They are 20-4 in August.

Los Angeles skipper and 2004 Red Sox postseason hero Dave Roberts expects his team to respond, as it often has this season.

“We’ve had a lot of tough losses, stretches where we haven’t played well, and responded,” Roberts said. “It’s a good environment. But we’ll be ready to go (Sunday).”

Betts went 3-for-6 with a double, a run and an RBI in the second game of his return series to Boston. His 14-game hitting streak is the longest active run in the majors and puts him one shy of tying his longest of the season.

After his emotional leadoff at-bat in Friday’s series opener, the 2018 AL MVP sees the rest of the series as business as usual.

“Today was just normal business,” Betts said after Saturday’s game. “Ovation was cool, I wasn’t expecting it. That was cool. But I’m just here for business now. I gotta make sure we get some wins now. Today we lost and it didn’t feel too good.”

Left-hander Caleb Ferguson (7-3, 2.81) opposes Houck for Los Angeles. It will be his fourth start of the season and the first of his career against Boston.

Ferguson was also the Dodgers‘ opener on Thursday night in Cleveland, allowing one hit in a scoreless inning.

The southpaw will look to set the Los Angeles staff up strongly after an inefficient outing from Julio Urias, who allowed six runs on eight hits — including three homers — across six innings in the Saturday defeat.

—Field Level Media

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