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Interleague Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, June 16th (All times Eastern)

Boston Red Sox (31-33) at Chicago Cubs (22-42), 7:15 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Boston - Jon Lester (3-4, 4.57) Chicago - Jeff Samardzija (5-4, 3.96)

(Sports Network) - In the first matchup of the 'Theo Epstein' series it was the Cubs who took the win behind a strong outing from Ryan Dempster and a poor offensive showing from the Boston Red Sox.

Now the Sox will try to bounce back from a tough day at the plate, while the Cubs are attempt to get back-to-back wins for the second time this month and only the sixth time this season.

In Friday's matinee at Wrigley Field. the Cubs pulled out a 3-0 win as Dempster continued to push his trade stock up. Dempster pitched seven scoreless innings, extending his scoreless innings streak to 22, scattering four hits and two walks while striking out three batters.

Dempster is now 3-3 this season but with an ERA of 2.11 he is a pitcher many contending teams will be calling about come the trade deadline. On top of the strong pitching performance Dempster also went 2-for-2 at the plate with a triple and a run scored.

In making his second start for the Red Sox this season Daisuke Matsuzaka got off to a shaky start but put forth a solid effort. Matsuzaka walked the bases loaded in the first inning and gave up three runs in the first two frames, He settled down from there going six strong while striking out three.

The Red Sox had a chance to win in the ninth inning when Cubs closer Carlos Marmol loaded the bases but Dustin Pedroia grounded out to third base to end the game.

Tonight, converted reliever Jeff Samardzija will get the start for the Cubs.

The 27-year-old will need the short memory of a reliever after his last outing where he lasted just 3 2/3 innings and gave up a season-high eight runs with just one strikeout, a season-low, in an 11-3 loss to Minnesota. Samardzija's career numbers are not exactly stellar in June where he is now 2-4 with a 6.12 ERA in his career.

Despite that disastrous start Samardzija's move to the starting rotation has been a success so far this season for the Cubs. The right-hander leads the Cubs in wins with a 5-4 record and is second among Chicago starters with a 3.96 ERA. Samardzija also leads the Cubs rotation with 72 strikeouts over 72 2/3 innings pitched.

Samardzija pitched in a single inning against the Red Sox a season ago and gave up five runs (three earned) in the appearance. Samardzija really hasn't been able to figure out the American League in his career with a 8.83 ERA and no wins in eight career outings in interleague play.

Although the offense has not been what was expected from the Red Sox this season, Boston's biggest issue has been it's starting pitching.

If the Red Sox are ever going to get back into the AL East race they need Jon Lester to return to form. Lester who has four straight seasons with at least 15 wins and an ERA under 3.50 is having his worst professional season and is 3-4 with an ERA of 4.57.

Lester's struggles are coming because of his inability to keep opposing batters off base. His 1.36 WHIP is the highest since 2007 while his hits per nine inning rate of 9.5 is the highest since his rookie season.

Lester is also not getting opposing batters to swing and miss as effectively with just a 6.0 strikeout per nine inning rate which is his lowest mark over the last four seasons.

The 28-year-old had a strong outing his last time out, lasting seven innings while allowing three runs on six hits and striking out nine, but still took a loss to the Washington Nationals.

Despite the loss there was a number of positives to take out of the start as it was the deepest into a game Lester had gone in five starts and the most strikeouts he has had in a game this season.

The Cubs are off to a better start in this years series with Boston after they lost two of three matchups with the Red Sox a year ago. This is the first time Chicago has hosted Boston since winning two of three meetings back in 2005.

06/16 10:52:47 ET