Catching the New York Yankees in the American League East might be unlikely, but the Boston Red Sox are back in the thick of playoff contention thanks to their recent hot streak.
Boston has won four in a row and 16 of the past 20 heading into a three-game series against the host Cleveland Guardians that begins Friday night.
"I've been saying this all along: We got ourselves in a deep hole (earlier in the season)," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "Now we're in a better position."
The same can be said of the Guardians, who went 7-2 on their just-completed trip against the Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers and Minnesota Twins. Cleveland is on a 17-5 run.
Not only do the Red Sox have their customary prowess in the batter's box, but their starting pitching has been superb, too.
Boston heads into the weekend series with three of the top five AL players in terms of batting average: Xander Bogaerts (.335), Rafael Devers (.328) and J.D. Martinez (.326).
That's not to mention second baseman Trevor Story, who has 11 home runs and a team-high 48 RBIs.
"We want him controlling the (hitting) zone, staying on pitches to right-center," Cora said.
Boston leads the AL in batting average at .258.
The Red Sox have 15 home runs in their past 12 games. They finished 7-2 on their just-completed homestand, including a three-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers, capped by a 6-2 victory on Wednesday.
Boston right-hander Nick Pivetta (7-5, 3.31 ERA) will start in the opener against Cleveland, his first career appearance against the Guardians. He is coming off back-to-back wins over the Oakland A's on June 14 and the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday, having allowed a total of two runs in 15 innings during those outings.
Right-hander Cal Quantrill (4-4, 3.77) will pitch for Cleveland on Friday. He is 0-1 with a 4.15 ERA in two previous starts against Boston, both last year.
Quantrill won three consecutive starts before enduring his worst outing of the season on Saturday against the host Los Angeles Dodgers, when he gave up five runs on 10 hits in five innings during a 7-1 defeat.
On Thursday, Cleveland was attempting to sweep the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis for the first time since June 2017, but the Guardians lost 1-0.
"We've been playing close games with everybody," Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. "(Minnesota) plays us as tough as anybody. They're a good team."
And so are the Red Sox.
After the three-game series against Boston, the Guardians will remain home for a five-game series against Minnesota and then a three-game set against the Yankees. It's their longest homestand of the season -- and one of the toughest.
The Guardians are thrilled with the way they've played in June. They are 15-5 this month while averaging 4.6 runs. They have a 3.28 staff ERA, and they have won four one-run games.
--Field Level Media