The Boston Red Sox resume their homestand on Friday when the surging Chicago White Sox come to Fenway Park for the opener of a three- game set.
Boston, which currently leads the American League East by 2 1/2 games, had its winning streak halted at four in a row with Thursday's 3-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles.
The Red Sox hitters were unable to solve O's starter Chris Tillman, who recorded eight strikeouts over seven innings. David Ortiz went 0-for-4 and is now hitless in his last 24 plate appearances. The slugger downplayed his recent struggles.
"I'll be all right. Just keep on fighting. Nothing else you can do. It's part of the game."
Chicago notched its second straight victory and fourth in its last five games with Wednesday's 6-1 triumph over the Houston Astros. It marked the team's fifth straight series victory.
Chris Sale struck out 12 batters in a game for the fourth time this season, setting a White Sox team record. He allowed one run on four hits in eight innings. The red-hot Avisail Garcia broke the game open with a three-run home run in the seventh inning. Garcia is hitting .352 in 19 games since being acquired from Detroit.
Hector Santiago takes the mound for the White Sox, and the team has won each of his last four starts. Most recently, Santiago limited a potent Texas Rangers lineup to two earned runs on five hits in 6 1/3 innings, striking out six.
Meanwhile, Boston's Ryan Dempster is making his first start since serving a five-game suspension for plunking Alex Rodriguez on Aug. 18 after throwing behind him during the same at-bat.
"He's rested, I know that. He'll be ready to go. I don't see this period of time in which he hasn't gotten on the mound as being a huge obstacle for him," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "He's a guy that clearly knows his delivery. He knows his routine and what to prepare even if there's been an extended downtime, and more than anything, I think the downtime gives him a boost, just from some rest rather than possibly making him rusty or lack touch or feel to his secondary pitches.
"I think it's also Ryan making a positive out of this as well. So I think it's just his veteran experience and confidence in himself that would make this a positive."
The Red Sox have managed to win six of Dempster's last seven starts despite a 6.81 ERA in that span.
The White Sox have had the slight edge in the head-to-head series. They took two out of three from Boston on May 20-22 and have gone 21-18 against the Red Sox since 2008.