The Dodgers have been scorching hot for more than two months. That allows the Red Sox to use this weekend's series in Los Angeles as a litmus test.
"We're going up against a hot team," said Boston skipper John Farrell. "We've got to find ways to try to slow them down."
The Dodgers' resurgence has coincided with the callup of outfielder Yasiel Puig. Farrell has been impressed by the Cuban sensation's flair and performance.
"He's an exciting, young player," Farrell said. "He's aggressive at the plate, he's aggressive in all phases of his game. He's going to be an aggressive swinger when he comes to the plate. We know that."
So how does Farrell expect his pitchers to get Puig out?
"Hopefully he hits some balls right at people," Farrell said.
Puig and the rest of manager Don Mattingly's lineup will square off against southpaw Jon Lester on Saturday. The lefty has posted a 3-1 record and 2.52 ERA since the All-Star break, a stark turnaround from the 8-6 mark and 4.58 ERA he logged prior to the Midsummer Classic. Farrell cited several reasons for the reversal.
"Some added rest coming out of the All-Star break," Farrell said, "more consistent fastball command, particularly to his arm side. And more than anything, he's stayed out of the middle of the plate, particularly in key moments. And he's made a pitch to shut off potential RBI situations. He's throw a higher percentage of strikes. His walk totals have dropped since coming out of the All-Star break."
The Dodgers will counter with rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu, who has compiled a 12-4 record and 2.95 ERA in his first season in the Majors. The left-hander has won six of his past seven decisions and is 6-1 with a 1.78 ERA in 11 home starts.
"Ryu has been, for me, beyond anybody's expectations," said pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.
Red Sox: Thornton on the mend
• Left-handed reliever Matt Thornton could rejoin the Red Sox bullpen this weekend. The veteran has been sidelined since injuring his right oblique on Aug. 4.
"We'll check him [Saturday], and then, we'll go one of two ways. It could possibly be an activation for Sunday or, if we determine that he needs another time on the mound, we'll determine it," Farrell said. "Most importantly, we just need to check that there's no soreness after today's session, during which he threw the ball very good."
Dodgers: Kemp nearing return
• Outfielder Matt Kemp may begin a rehab assignment before Minor League seasons end the first week of September. Kemp tested his sprained ankle on Friday by running and making turns and taking early batting practice.
"They said that was the best he's ran," Mattingly said. "You still see a hitch now and then on certain steps and when he's slowing down. He's getting better, but he's not there yet."
• Ryu has tossed at least six innings in 20 of his 24 starts this season.
• Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez has reached base in 49 of the 55 games he has started this season.