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06/24/10 1:30 PM ET

Red Sox face test in contending Giants

It's the dividing point for divisional greatness, an indicator that reality has caught up to perception.

The Red Sox have carried themselves as one of the best teams in baseball through this point of the season, but they haven't played well enough to crack into the American League Wild Card picture. Boston enters Friday with the fourth-best record in baseball, a shocking statistic given that the Sox still stand tied for second in their own division.

New York and Tampa Bay have been pushing the boundaries of the AL East, and Boston finds itself having to perform up to sublime standards just to keep pace. The Red Sox will get to test their perspective on Friday, when they take on the contending Giants in the first act of a three-game series.

  • 134 wins
  • 118 wins

The Giants have won 10 of their past 17 and 17 of their past 28 games, a surge that has them standing on the fringe of their own Wild Card race. To make things more interesting, San Francisco is moving through a crucial point of its schedule, a juncture that will see the club play 20 games in 20 days leading up to the All-Star break.

San Francisco is only 1-2 thus far in that segment of the schedule, but it can leap forward on Friday by following behind the capable left arm of Jonathan Sanchez. Sanchez -- who is holding opponents to a .204 batting average -- is coming off his shortest start of the season and will be matched against Boston's Tim Wakefield.

The Red Sox have made Interleague Play their own personal playground in recent years, having posted the best record (93-48) of any big league team since 2003. Boston has won 17 of its past 22 Interleague series dating back to June 2007, and the Giants loom as the final test of that trend this season.

The Giants will present an imposing pitching challenge, but the Red Sox may be uniquely positioned to nullify that threat. Boston leads the Major Leagues in a host of categories, a list that includes but is not limited to total bases, runs, RBIs, extra-base hits and slugging percentage.

Red Sox: Wakefield making his mark
Wakefield has had an up-and-down season thus far, but he's managed to complete at least six innings in each of his past four starts. The right-handed knuckleballer has given up home runs in five straight outings, and he hasn't managed to push his season ERA below 5.00 since his second start of the season.

Wakefield, who ranks among active leaders in wins (194), starts (432) and strikeouts (2,032), has made an even bigger impact on Boston's record books. The 43-year-old has made more starts than any pitcher in team history, and he stands behind only Roger Clemens in strikeouts and Clemens and Cy Young in victories.

Giants: Wilson ranks among elite closers
The Giants may not have a lot of sure things on their roster, but they've watched Brian Wilson develop into one of the league's most reliable closers. Wilson, who has converted six straight and eight of his past nine save opportunities, has the second-most saves and the second-best percentage among National League relievers this season.

And it's not a one-year phenomenon. Wilson is 99-for-114 converting save chances over the past three seasons. Only one big league closer -- the Mets' Francisco Rodriguez -- has more saves over that span.

Worth noting
The Giants are 27-7 when scoring first, the third-best record in the Majors. ... San Francisco is 37-12 when scoring at least three runs, a record that stands as the third best of any big league team. ... The Giants are 3-24 when trailing after seven innings, and they're 31-3 when leading at the same juncture of the game.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.