James takes on Sox ace in opener

James takes on Sox ace in opener

When the Braves went to Boston last month, they were still in the early stages of a month-long slide and the Red Sox looked like they were legitimately the best team in the Majors. When these teams meet again this week at Turner Field, the Braves will still be looking to start an extended hot streak.

After being swept last week in Minnesota, the Braves came back this past weekend to take two out of three from the American League Central-leading Indians in Cleveland. They'll be looking to solve a second straight division winner in this series. Despite some recent struggles, the Red Sox still own a comfortable lead in the AL East race.

Even with Sunday's loss to the Indians, the Braves kept themselves within striking distance of the Mets in the NL East race. They'll be looking to put an end to the woes they've recently experienced against the Red Sox, who swept a three-game set at Turner Field last year and also took two out of three from the Braves at Fenway Park in May.

When the Red Sox claimed the series victory last month, they did so without Curt Schilling or Josh Beckett taking the mound. The two right-handers will toe the rubber in the first two games of this week's series in Atlanta.

"We're going to win a lot of games when our starting pitching is consistent," Chipper Jones said. "That's the key to anybody's success. We feel, as an offense, we can go out there and score four or five runs against pretty much anybody."

Schilling, who will be facing the Braves for the third time since going to Boston in 2004, will be opposed by Chuck James in the series opener. James will be facing the Red Sox for the first time in his career, and at the same time, looking to erase the memories of the struggles that he encountered in Minnesota on Wednesday night.

While allowing the Twins six earned runs in just 4 1/3 innings, James surrendered three of his team-high 12 homers. He'll be looking to turn things around against a quieted Red Sox lineup, which through Sunday was hitting .257 in June.

While the Red Sox will have two of their aces going in this series, the Braves will not have the luxury of using John Smoltz in this series. But they will be sending Tim Hudson to the mound to face Beckett, who has lost just one of his 12 starts this year.

When Hudson allowed six earned runs in just 4 2/3 innings at Fenway on May 20, it was just a continuation of his career-long struggles against the Red Sox. He is 3-8 with a 7.12 ERA in 11 career starts against them.

The finale of the three-game series will pit Buddy Carlyle against Julian Tavarez. The Braves have won each of the past three games that Carlyle has started.

Pitching matchup
ATL: LHP Chuck James (5-6, 4.16 ERA)
James entered Wednesday night's outing against the Twins with three consecutive quality starts and exited it after he surrendered three homers. Each of the six runs James allowed came before he recorded the first out of the third inning. The 25-year-old southpaw is primarily a two-pitch pitcher (fastball and changeup) who doesn't have the dominant stuff to get away with pitches that he leaves up in the strike zone.

BOS: RHP Curt Schilling (6-3, 3.80 ERA)
Schilling was hittable at home against the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday, just six days after nearly no-hitting the Oakland Athletics. He allowed nine hits and six runs, five of them earned, and has now allowed 99 hits in 90 innings. The back breaker was a fifth-inning three-run home run to right field off the bat of Brad Hawpe. The veteran right-hander has allowed three earned runs in his past 15 innings against the Braves.

Player to watch
Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis is hitting a team-best .323 on the road this year. He's hitting .300 against left-handed pitchers and .341 against right-handers.

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Up next
• Tuesday: Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 9-1, 3.39) at Braves (Tim Hudson, 6-4, 3.25), 7:35 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Red Sox (Julian Tavarez, 4-4, 4.97) at Braves (Buddy Carlyle, 1-1, 4.44), 7:35 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Off-day

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.