The Red Sox will look to parlay a strong homestand into a successful road trip when they open a three-game series against the Angels on Friday.
Boston won four straight games to complete an 8-1 homestand, the club's best homestand of at least nine games in more than three years. However, a 10-game West Coast swing leading into the All-Star break will present a new set of challenges.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said the trip, which includes series against the Angels, Athletics and Mariners, would provide a good test for his club.
"I think it's important to have that momentum going into the break," Farrell said. "You never want to have a stretch where you start to maybe slide back from the confidence that's been built or the wins that we've been able to amass. So we're going to be challenged not only in terms of the teams we're playing. Obviously the Angels are playing better now than when they were in town here last, Oakland is having a very strong year in its own right, and the fact that we go out west, which presents its own set of challenges. This will be a tough trip for us."
The Red Sox will look to continue their surge behind starter Felix Doubront. The left-hander is 4-3 with a 4.22 ERA in 15 games, including 14 starts. Doubront hasn't won since June 1 and is 2-2 with 4.69 ERA on the road.
The Angels, meanwhile, had a seven-game win streak snapped by the Cardinals on Wednesday but rallied for three in the ninth on Thursday to win, 6-5.
"We're still not firing on all cylinders," manager Mike Scioscia said. "But we're doing some important things that are giving us a chance to win, and hopefully we're going to continue to improve as we get into the second half of the schedule."
C.J. Wilson will take the mound for the Angels on Friday. The left-hander is 8-5 with a 3.63 ERA in 17 starts this season. He's been much better at Angel Stadium than on the road, going 4-2 with a 2.65 ERA in eight starts at home. Wilson is on a four-game winning streak, with a 2.42 ERA in that span.
The Angels are 2-1 against the Red Sox this year, outscoring Boston 22-16 at Fenway Park.
Red Sox: Buchholz yet to throw off mound
Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz continues to progress from a neck strain that has sidelined him since June 8, and he ramped up his throwing program on Thursday.
Buchholz threw from 90 feet on flat ground on Thursday afternoon, 15 feet farther than he did on Wednesday. The right-hander will continue to extend back until he progresses to throw off the mound.
It's unlikely Buchholz will return before the All-Star break, because he would likely need two Minor League rehab starts before being activated from the disabled list. The Red Sox want to be cautious with Buchholz, who is 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA.
Buchholz believes he's making progress and said he has "turned the corner."
"I feel like I'm finally getting close to feeling pretty much normal now," he said. "So the last few days of throwing are encouraging. Like I said, I'm finally able to clear my head a little bit and go about it as just getting back to getting off the mound."
Angels: Hamilton avoids chew speculation
Outfielder Josh Hamilton wouldn't discuss speculation that he's back to using chewing tobacco.
Hamilton, who is riding a nine-game hitting streak, would not say if the habit returned even though video of recent at-bats have occasionally shown a black substance come out of his mouth.
"I just don't have any comments on it," Hamilton said. "It's one of those things where if I give you guys any kind of story, your story's going to be different from his story, your story's going to be different from his story. And then other people who aren't in this clubhouse, with you guys, are going to take your story and it's going to be an absolute mess. No, nothing is coming from these lips."
Hamilton quit smokeless tobacco last July. He stayed away from it during the offseason and Spring Training.
"Until you actually see me reach in a bag of chewing tobacco, and pull it out, and put it in my mouth, then what's in there?" he said.
• Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is 8-for-17 (.471) in his career against Wilson, with three doubles, one home run and six RBIs.
Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.