September 24, 2017 / 9:05 PM / in 2 months

Preview: Red Sox at Reds

The Boston Red Sox are taking advantage of the schedule and chipping away at their magic number to clinch the American League East. The Red Sox will try to pull off a three-game sweep and earn their sixth consecutive victory when they visit the Cincinnati Reds for the finale of an interleague set on Sunday.

Boston has not faced a team with a winning record in any of its last 17 games and is 13-4 in that span to open up a four-game lead in the division and reduce its magic number to five. The Red Sox pitching staff is leading the way of late and secured its third shutout in four games with Saturday’s 5-0 triumph - the 11th time in the last 17 games that the staff surrendered three or fewer runs. The Reds are losers of five straight and struggling to play spoiler with each of those setbacks coming against teams fighting for playoff position. Cincinnati will try to avoid the sweep in its home finale on Sunday behind rookie righty Jackson Stephens on Sunday while the Red Sox counter with veteran righty Doug Fister.

TV: 1:10 p.m. ET, NESN (Boston), FSN Ohio (Cincinnati)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Red Sox RH Doug Fister (5-8, 4.86 ERA) vs. Reds RH Jackson Stephens (2-0, 4.80)

Fister seemed to carry the Boston rotation for a few weeks at the end of August and into early September but fell hard off that pace in his last two turns. The California native was lit up for a total of 11 runs in six innings over those two starts and issued five walks in just two frames at Baltimore on Monday. Fister last saw Cincinnati as a member of the Washington Nationals in 2015 and allowed one earned run in six innings without earning a decision.

Stephens is making his third major-league start and is coming off the worst outing of his brief career after surrendering five runs on five hits over 3 2/3 innings against St. Louis on Tuesday. The 23-year-old yielded a total of four home runs in 8 2/3 innings across his two starts. Stephens went 7-10 with a 4.92 ERA in 26 games - 25 starts - at Triple-A Louisville before joining the Reds.

WALK-OFFS

1. Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia (knee) and RF Mookie Betts (foot) were both scratched from Saturday’s lineup and are day-to-day.

2. Cincinnati LF Adam Duvall is hitless in his last seven games.

3. Boston INF Eduardo Nunez (knee), who has not played since Sept. 9, is expected to run the bases prior to Sunday’s game.

PREDICTION: Red Sox 8, Reds 6

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