Red Sox-Braves Preview
By NOEY KUPCHAN
(AP) -- Frustration appears to be growing for the Boston Red Sox, who are struggling through their longest losing streak in 20 years.
The last-place Red Sox try to get on track when they visit the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves on Monday in the opener of a home-and-home series.
Boston (20-29) has hit .212 and been outscored 52-26 during a 10-game skid, its worst since dropping 11 straight June 8-19, 1994.
"When you lose, it certainly tests the mettle of a team," reliever Craig Breslow told MLB's official website. "But I feel like guys are pulling for each other. Guys have the same commitment and desire to win. Right now, it's just not happening and I think we're all looking at why that is. Maybe it is just as simple as getting one under our belts and continue to go from there."
In Sunday's 8-5 loss at Tampa Bay, Jonny Gomes hit a game-tying two-run homer in the top of the seventh but tempers started to flare in the bottom of the inning.
Rays' shortstop Yunel Escobar took third on defensive indifference following a five-run surge, and benches cleared after Boston's David Ross started shouting at Escobar. Gomes and Escobar were ejected, along with Tampa Bay's Sean Rodriguez.
"I think our whole team took exception to the stolen base," Ross said. "He's in scoring position. But that's neither here nor there. I think we're just tired of getting beat. We're frustrated. … I think it got a little more heated as we got attacked, and we kind of attacked back. That's what happens."
David Ortiz is 4 for 34 with four singles and no RBIs during Boston's slide, while Dustin Pedroia is 8 for 41 and has left 16 runners on base.
"It's frustrating," Pedroia said. "We're trying to win baseball games. We just haven't done that. The effort is there, the performance isn't. We've got to be better. It starts tomorrow."
The Red Sox may be able to break through against Ervin Santana (4-2, 3.42 ERA), who has posted an 8.25 ERA in losing back-to-back starts. The right-hander surrendered a season-high six runs over seven innings in Wednesday's 6-1 defeat to Milwaukee.
"Bad starts are going to happen," he said. "I just have to be prepared for that and then get my mind right and stay positive."
Santana is 4-3 with a 4.50 ERA in 13 regular-season outings versus Boston. Ortiz is 11 for 30 with three homers and three doubles in their matchups.
The Red Sox counter with Clay Buchholz (2-4, 6.32), who has also been hit hard of late. The right-hander allowed five runs and nine hits over 4 2-3 innings in Wednesday's 6-4 loss to Toronto, dropping to 0-2 with a 7.80 ERA in his last three outings.
"Inconsistent command," manager John Farrell said. "Far too many at-bats where he pitched behind in the count. And uncharacteristic for what we know of Clay is that mistakes found their way to the middle of the plate. ... We've got to make either an adjustment or a correction mechanically because too many misfires up to the arm side."
Buchholz has never faced the Braves (28-21), who have won six of eight. Evan Gattis, Justin Upton and Chris Johnson provided all the offense with a combined four homers in Sunday's 7-0 victory over Colorado.
"This Atlanta club hits the ball in the seats," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "That's what they do."
The Braves are 21-5 when they hit at least one homer and 7-16 when they don't.
Upton is batting .407 with four homers and 11 RBIs over the last eight games. He's a career .314 hitter in interleague play.
The Braves are 6-15 against the Red Sox since 2005, including 2-7 in Atlanta. These teams play at Turner Field again Tuesday before shifting the series to Boston.
Updated May 26, 2014