GAME: Chicago White Sox (74-41) at Boston Red Sox (68-47).
TIME: Sunday, 2:05 p.m. EDT.
The Chicago White Sox may have the best record in the majors, but the Boston Red Sox are still baseball's defending champions.
The surging AL East leaders will try to emphasize that point again as they shoot for a three-game sweep of the visiting White Sox.
Though they entered this series with the second-best record in the AL - eight games back of the White Sox in the overall standings - the Red Sox have sent a strong message to Chicago this weekend at Fenway.
After holding on for a 9-8 win against All-Star game starter Mark Buehrle in Friday's series opener, the Red Sox handled AL wins leader Jon Garland on Saturday, scoring five runs in 5 1-3 innings against the right-hander en route to a 7-4 victory.
"This is a team where you cannot mess around," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "With that lineup, you have to be almost perfect to beat them."
Asked if the season series, which the Red Sox lead 4-2, is a way to measure how they compare heading into the playoffs, first baseman Kevin Millar said, "We know we're big dogs. We don't need to measure."
David Ortiz, who was hitting just .206 in 91 at-bats since the All-Star break entering this series, has gone 7-for-9 with two homers and six RBIs in the two games. Ortiz strung together seven consecutive hits over the two days, helping Boston maintain a five-game lead over the second-place New York Yankees in the East.
"David was hitting everything," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "I can understand it. I'm sure they weren't real thrilled about it."
Tony Graffanino also had three hits for Boston, which has won 13 consecutive home games and 14 of its last 16 overall. The Red Sox won an AL record 24 straight home games in 1988.
Paul Konerko, Aaron Rowand and Jermaine Dye homered for Chicago, which is danger of suffering its second sweep of the year. The White Sox lost three straight at home to Oakland from July 8-10.
Boston and Chicago split a four-game set at U.S. Cellular Field from July 21-24.
STANDINGS: White Sox - 1st place, AL Central. Red Sox - 1st place, AL East.
WHITE SOX PROBABLE STARTER: Orlando Hernandez (8-5, 4.67 ERA). Hernandez has lost consecutive starts and four of his last five decisions. He allowed three runs and four hits over six innings in Monday's 3-2 loss to the New York Yankees, striking out four and walking three. He is 5-5 with a 3.13 ERA in 14 career starts against the Red Sox. On the road this year, El Duque is 5-2 with a 3.72 ERA in eight outings.
RED SOX PROBABLE STARTER: Matt Clement (11-3, 4.53 ERA). Making his second start since being hit in the head by a batted ball at Tampa Bay on July 26, Clement allowed one earned run and six hits over six strong innings, but did not receive a decision in Boston's 8-7 win over Texas on Tuesday. The right-hander struck out six and walked two. He is 2-1 with a 5.23 ERA in five career starts against the White Sox. At home this year, Clement is 6-2 with a 4.56 ERA in 12 starts.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: White Sox - Rowand, .285 avg.; Konerko, 30 HRs, 76 RBIs and 71 runs; Scott Podsednik, 54 SBs. Red Sox - Johnny Damon, .337 avg., 89 runs and 12 SBs; Manny Ramirez, 32 HRs and 107 RBIs.
SEASON SERIES: Red Sox, 4-2.
STREAKS AND NOTES: White Sox - 1B Konerko's homer Saturday was the 200th of his career. He also reached 30 homers for the second straight season and third time in his career. ... OF Podsednik sat out with a left leg injury Saturday. He is also expected to miss Sunday's game before the team decides whether to put him on the disabled list. ... The White Sox haven't lost three straight since July 19-21. Red Sox - 1B Roberto Petagine homered to lead off the second inning Saturday - his first major league home run since 1998. He played the intervening six seasons in Japan. ... RHP Curt Schilling has surrendered three homers in the first two games of the series. ... CF Damon was scratched from the lineup Saturday with a sore left hamstring. He left Friday night's game in the ninth inning.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: White Sox - 38-19 on the road; Red Sox - 38-18 at home.
INJURIES: White Sox - 1B Frank Thomas (foot), 15-day DL. Red Sox - INF Mark Bellhorn (thumb), 15-day DL; 1B John Olerud (hamstring), 15-day DL; OF Trot Nixon (oblique), 15-day DL; RHP Keith Foulke (knee), 15-day DL; RHP Wade Miller (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Matt Mantei (ankle), 60-day DL.