Series Preview: Oakland Athletics

July 4, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Boston Red Sox third baseman Mauro Gomez (50) hits his first major league hit with a double during the second inning in front of Oakland Athletics catcher Derek Norris (center) at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

Many people will place the time of death for the 2012 Red Sox at many different places.

Personally, one of my favorites is from July 2nd to July 4th.

The Red Sox had just come off a 11-3 run against primarily the National League that left them at 40-35 on June 27, just 1.5 back of the wild card.

They had suffered a 2-2 series split against the Mariners, but that happens when you face Felix Hernandez and have some assorted oddness besides. No big deal. The Athletics were up next, and at 38-42 they weren't any great threat.

Three days later they had been swept by a composite score of 12-5. They headed into New York with no momentum, dropped two-of-three, and entered the All-Star break at 43-43. Yes, the first week of the second half brought some small success, but at least for me this was where Boston's second wind was stopped abruptly short. This was where they had used up all they had available. This was where the season was over.

Now Oakland stands at 73-57, 2.5 games clear in the wild card race, while the Sox look up from below.

The funny thing is, with things the way they are, and three of the teams most likely to benefit from Oakland losses being the Angels, Rays, and Orioles...Well, I'm not sure I even want to win these ones.

Game 1: Aaron Cook (68 IP, 0.9 K/BB, 92 ERA+) vs. Brandon McCarthy (101 IP, 3.0 K/BB, 128 ERA+)

Game 2: Felix Doubront (127.2 IP, 2.33 K/BB, 91 ERA+) vs. Brett Anderson (14 IP, 5.50 K/BB, 0.64 ERA)

Game 3: Daisuke Matsuzaka (30 IP, 2.60 K/BB, 87 ERA+) vs. Tommy Milone (159.1 IP, 3.77 K/BB, 107 ERA+)

You may notice a bit of a trend in these matchups. The Sox send pitchers with below league average results up against pitchers with above league average results.

Of course, that's been the situation for the Red Sox most of this year, with the understanding being that they'd hopefully be able to counter it with their strong lineup. But if you've seen any game since "The Trade," the Red Sox don't have good lineups anymore. Not even close.

Yes, that's right, we've reached the point where the typically offensively bankrupt Oakland Athletics have the leg up on the Sox even in that department. All it takes at this point, really, is their trio of Reddick, Cespedes, and Carter.

Maybe even just two.

The only really interesting matchup of the three seems to be the middle one. Anderson has gaudy numbers, but he's only been back for 14 innings, so the chance for shakiness is greater. Doubront, too, is the one most likely to provide for the Red Sox. He had another discouraging collapse as his pitch count rose in his last outing, however, which would suggest that the disabled list stint did not have its intended impact.

The other two games feature good pitchers against Daisuke Matsuzaka and Aaron Cook--two guys who probably rank last even in this rotation as far as players we'd want to see on any given day. That's even taking into account Daisuke's good outing last time 'round.

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