Facing Lackey will be ballyhooed newcomer Clay Buchholz, whose meteoric rise from Double-A to Triple-A to the big time has captivated New Englanders.
"John would welcome the matchup with Beckett," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "That's not the reason we're lining him up this way. He went to Boston [early Thursday]. To have him ready to go, rather than waiting around, is better for him."
The Angels took two of three from the Red Sox in Anaheim Aug. 6-8, scoring a total of 20 runs in the three games. It helped ease some of the sting from their first Fenway visit this season. It came in early April, and it was ugly.
The Red Sox didn't just beat the Angels in those three games; they beat them up, outscoring Mike Scioscia's troupe by a combined 25-3 and putting Vladimir Guerrero out of action for two games with a hand injury sustained when he was struck by a 96 mph fastball by Beckett.
While the matchup clearly favors the Angels with Lackey, they have no history with Boston's young pitcher, Buchholz. Unfamiliarty can breed discomfort for a hitter.
Lackey didn't pitch poorly in losing an April 13 decision at Fenway, yielding three earned runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings while striking out six.
The time is now for Buchholz, Boston's answer to Yankees wunderkind Joba Chamberlain. Like Chamberlain, recently called up by New York, Buchholz is young -- he turned 23 on Tuesday -- possesses brilliant strikeout stuff, and might well become a household name in October.
The Red Sox will purchase his contract, clearing a spot that will be used for his first Major League start. After the game, he will be sent down, at which point Jacoby Ellsbury will occupy the roster spot vacated by Buchholz in the nightcap. The Red Sox have not announced whose spot Buchholz will take.
When the Angels won the season series last year at Fenway, 2-1, it was the first time that had happened since 2001. In Scioscia's eight years carrying the reins, the Angels are 12-19 in Boston and 28-35 overall against the Red sox.
LAA: RHP John Lackey (15-6, 3.07)
Lackey showed his competitive spirit in eight innings in beating Minnesota in his most recent start, allowing only two runs on 10 hits while tossing 104 pitches. He's had his career struggles in Beantown, going 1-3 in six appearances with a 6.68 ERA. Overall, he's 1-5 in 10 career starts against the Red Sox with a 5.75 ERA.
BOS: RHP Clay Buchholz (0-0, 0.00)
The much-anticipated Buchholz is a combined 8-3 with a 2.15 ERA this season in Double-A and Triple-A competition. At Triple-A Pawtucket, he's 1-1 with a 3.26 ERA in six starts with a remarkable strikeouts-to-walks ratio of 48-to-8 in 30 1/3 innings. He leads all Minor League pitchers with 164 strikeouts.
Player to watch
Orlando Cabrera makes his return to Fenway Park, where he helped the 2004 Red Sox accomplish their impossible mission with a World Series triumph. Cabrera always is a key in the Angels' offense and their most dependable defender as a Gold Glove candidate at shortstop.
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Official game notes
KSPN, 830 AM (Español)
Friday: Angels (Ervin Santana 5-11, 6.22 ERA) at Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 15-5, 3.24), 4:05 p.m. PT
Saturday: Angels (Jered Weaver, 8-5, 3.85) at Red Sox (Curt Schilling, 6-5, 4.06), 4:05 p.m. PT
Sunday: Angels (Joe Saunders, 6-1, 3.50) at Red Sox (Tim Wakefield, 14-10, 4.55), 11:05 a.m. PT