The Boston Red Sox's starting rotation has one of the best ERAs in the AL, thanks in large part to Clay Buchholz's stellar performances.
Buchholz looks to win five straight starts for the second time in his career as Boston opens a four-game series against the visiting Houston Astros on Thursday night.
The Red Sox's starting staff has a solid 3.14 ERA after Jon Lester helped Boston (14-7) earn a 6-5 win over Oakland on Wednesday. The team had dropped three of its previous five to open a 10-game homestand.
David Ortiz went 2 for 4 with an RBI and is 8 for 16 since returning to the lineup Saturday for the first time since last August. He missed 71 of the final 72 games last season and all of spring training's with an Achilles tendon injury.
"Right now I'm not where I want to be, so I'm not trying to juice some balls," Ortiz said. "I'm trying to stay with what they give me."
Buchholz (4-0, 0.90 ERA) hopes to add another outstanding performance to his list in his first career start against Houston. He had a 22-inning scoreless streak before giving up a run in the fifth inning of Saturday's 4-3 win over Kansas City, and ended up allowing two runs while striking out six in eight innings.
The only time he won five consecutive starts came from May 14-June 4, 2010.
"Obviously when the numbers are good that makes you feel a little bit better," said Buchholz, who has 29 strikeouts in 30 innings. "I feel like I've done the work in between my starts and everything is going really good right now."
Houston starter Philip Humber, meanwhile, is coming off one of the worst performances of his career.
Humber (0-4, 6.63) gave up eight runs and eight hits in just one-third of an inning of a 19-6 loss to Cleveland on Saturday. He had a 2.89 ERA over his first three outings but received one total run of support and suffered the loss in each.
"It's not fun," Humber told the team's official website. "It's not what you planned on and not what you worked for. It's just one of those nights. I'll get them next time."
The right-hander has gone 4-9 with a 7.26 ERA in 18 starts since throwing a perfect game for the Chicago White Sox against Seattle on April 21, 2012 - a stretch that began when he gave up a career-worst nine runs in a loss to Boston on April 26.
Humber is 2-2 with a 7.33 ERA in four career starts versus the Red Sox, though he allowed two runs in six innings in a 7-5 victory July 17 in his most recent outing against them.
The Astros (7-14) hope their offense is beginning to come around after beating Seattle 10-3 on Wednesday at home, as Chris Carter, Ronny Cedeno and Brandon Laird homered. They're averaging 6.3 runs while going 4-2 versus the Mariners but just 3.3 in going 3-12 against everyone else.
Robbie Grossman had two doubles in his major league debut replacing Justin Maxwell, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a broken left hand sustained after being hit by a pitch Tuesday.
"He adds a dynamic to our club, some more speed at the top of the lineup and a guy that gets on base," manager Bo Porter said.
Boston has won seven of the nine all-time meetings with Houston, including a three-game sweep June 13-15, 2003, in the only matchups at Fenway Park.