September 03, 2015

Young and old have combined to make the Boston Red Sox one of the hottest teams in baseball since mid-August.

While the end result isn't a pennant to chase, the Red Sox seek their first sweep of at least three games since early June against the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday.

A youthful core has helped Boston to an 11-6 record since Aug. 18 after it outscored visiting Philadelphia by a combined 16-7 to open this series with a pair of victories. Boston hasn't swept a three-game set since a home series against Oakland from June 5-7.

The Red Sox (63-72) have 24 hits in the series and are now 27-12 against the Phillies since the beginning of 2004. Four young hitters led the way as Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Brock Holt combined to hit .483 with six doubles, a home run and seven RBIs in the first two games.

"Those young guys have been playing really good baseball for a month now," interim manager Torey Lovullo told MLB's official website. "It's been a lot of fun for us to watch. They're playing wide-open, comfortable, confident baseball that's helping us win games."

And then there's 39-year-old David Ortiz, who had a double and RBI in the opener before hitting his 496th home run Saturday. The homer capped Boston's eight-run fourth and gave Ortiz a club-record nine 30-homer seasons. He passed Ted Williams' previous mark and moved closer to becoming the 27th player with 500 career home runs.

He is hitting .376 with eight homers and 21 RBIs in 24 games since Aug. 8.

"You know we're all engaged every time he comes to the plate," Lovullo said. "It's an exciting time for every one of us."

Ortiz will try to help back another rookie on the mound in the series finale.

Eduardo Rodriguez (8-5, 4.25 ERA) has been strong in his last three outings - all of them at home - with a 2-0 record and 1.89 ERA, though opponents are hitting .274 against him with a pair of home runs.

The left-hander lasted just five innings Monday, but he held the New York Yankees to seven hits and two runs - one earned - in a 4-3 win. He's allowed three earned runs or fewer in six of his last seven starts.

Jerad Eickhoff has had similar success on the mound in his first big-league stint and will try to end a poor stretch for Philadelphia's starters. The Phillies (53-83) have lost five of six with their rotation going 0-5 with an 8.62 ERA in that stretch.

Eickhoff (1-2, 2.84) was part of the deal that sent Cole Hamels to Texas at the trade deadline and has made his case to stick with the Phillies' front five next year.

The right-hander has three quality starts since getting called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Aug. 21, allowing 15 hits and seven runs - six earned - over 19 innings.

However, he's dropped back-to-back starts against the New York Mets, the latest a 3-1 loss Monday in which he allowed three runs over seven innings. Two of the four hits Eickhoff gave up were the first two homers he's surrendered in the big leagues.

"I could always be better," he said. "I'm just trying to improve each start and take something from each team and make the most of it. I'm still attacking like I would at Double- and Triple-A, wherever."

Boston placed Hanley Ramirez on the 15-day disabled list Saturday with a sore right shoulder, while Pablo Sandoval was out of the lineup for the second straight day with back tightness.

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