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Red Sox vs. Athletics Series Preview

A look ahead to the week’s three-game set against Oakland.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Oakland Athletics Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation Blog

Athletics Nation

The opponent in one sentence

The A’s are right in the thick of their rebuild and it has shown in their performance this year as they’ve been one of the worst teams in the American League with a bad offense and one of the worst pitching staffs in the league.

Record

63-80

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 1, Athletics 3

Trend

Up. The A’s have been bad for pretty much the entire season, of course, but they’ve been playing pretty well of late. They are coming off a sweep of the Astros and have won five consecutive games. Of course, it’s worth noting that just prior to this winning streak they had lost eight in a row.

Pitching Matchups

9/12: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Sean Manaea, 7:10 PM ET

Rodriguez seems to be in a battle with Rick Porcello for the final spot in Boston’s playoff rotation, and my guess would be that he’s currently in the lead after his last start. The young lefty is coming off an impressive six-inning outing against Toronto, and he’ll look to keep that going against Oakland. Consistency has always been Rodriguez’ biggest issue, so these next few weeks should be interesting to see. He allowed three runs in eight innings with eight strikeouts and just one walk in a start against Oakland earlier in the year.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Manaea is one of the most exciting young pitchers in the American League, and the former top prospect is having a solid sophomore campaign, though he hasn’t really taken a leap forward from his rookie year. The lefty has a 4.33 ERA with roughly average peripherals that include eight strikeouts per nine innings, three walks per nine and roughly one home run per nine innings. He has been better of late, to be fair, as he has a 3.04 ERA over his last four starts, though he also has 14 strikeouts and eight walks in 23 innings during that stretch. Manaea allowed three runs (two earned) in five innings against the Red Sox back in May. The 25-year-old features a low-to-mid-90s fastball to go with a changeup and a slider.

9/13: Doug Fister vs. Jharel Cotton, 7:10 PM ET

Fister has been an incredible story for the Red Sox and right now it seems as if he’s locked up a postseason rotation spot against all odds. Of course, there’s still a few weeks left in the year and things can change. Fister needs to continue to show that the mechanical changes he’s made have resulted in tangible changes to his stuff and command, and he’ll have a unintimidating lineup to face off against on Wednesday.

Cotton was one of the more hyped rookies coming into the year, but his rookie campaign hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. He gets a decent enough number of strikeouts, but the 25-year-old righty has serious command issues combined with extreme flyball tendencies that unsurprisingly results in a lot of home runs. When that is combined with control issues, it leads to a lot of runs. He had been looking a bit better of late before allowing seven runs in five innings to the Astros his last time out. Cotton features a mid-90s four-seamer, a low-to-mid-90s two-seamer, a curveball and a cutter.

9/14: Drew Pomeranz vs. Daniel Gossett, 1:35 PM ET

There were some valid concerns about Pomeranz heading into his last outing, as he’d struggled with efficiency and started showing off some control issues that plagued him earlier in 2017 and for much of the second half of 2016. He came out against the Rays and had strong six-inning start, though, and there’s little reason to believe he’ll slow down against the A’s. The Red Sox would be smart to try and skip some starts of his down the road, but while they’re still in the thick of a divisional race that’s not feasible. Pomeranz allowed two runs (only one earned) against the A’s earlier in the year, but he did take 97 pitches to last just four innings.

Old Friends

Jed Lowrie is having a bounceback season for the A’s and hasn’t hit like this since back in 2013. Many expected him to be traded before the trade deadline passed, but Oakland apparently couldn’t find an attractive trade partner and they will likely try again in the winter. For now, he hits towards the top of their lineup and gets on base at a high clip. Of course, the Red Sox traded Lowrie to Houston for Mark Melancon prior to the 2012 season.

MLB: Houston Astros at Oakland Athletics Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Notable Hitters

Khris Davis is one of them most underrated power hitters in baseball and will be a threat to go yard every time he comes up to the plate in this series. The righty does have a tendency to strike out a lot, but he’ll also walk plenty and hit dingers. He’s actually a lot like Chris Davis, oddly enough.

Matt Olsen is a former top prospect who has only been up for about two months but he’s been incredibly impressive at the dish since joining the team. The first baseman holds down the middle of lineup and could potentially hit 20 home runs in both the majors and the minors this year.

Marcus Semien has been solid at shortstop when solid this year, though he’s been more of a contact and on-base player rather than the power hitter many in Oakland were looking for.

Matt Joyce has strong plate discipline and legitimate power, but he struggles to turn balls in play into singles and doubles and is also a platoon player who rarely plays against left-handed pitching.

Ryon Healy is an ultra-aggressive hitter who has gone through hot and cold streaks this year and they’ve all added up to a roughly average season at the plate.

Matt Chapman is another prospect who made his major-league debut this year, and he’s another big-time power bat who tends to strike out quite a bit.

Boog Powell hasn’t gotten a ton of major-league playing time this year, but he’s been impressive when he has been able to play.

Bullpen Snapshot

Blake Treinen was acquired from the Nationals in the deal that sent Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to Washington, presumably so Oakland could flip Treinen in the offseason. The A’s closer has a tendency to lose command at times, but when he’s on he’s electric with a high-velocity sinker that just looks impossible to hit.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Oakland Athletics Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Santiago Casilla is the former Giants closer during some of their playoff runs and served as Oakland’s closer for much of the year. He’s nearing the end of his career, though, and is struggling to induce ground balls at this point in his career.

Ryan Dull is...well, he’s pretty dull. The righty gets a little under ten strikeouts per nine but also has rough command that holds back his potential.

Daniel Coulombe is the A’s top lefty, and while he doesn’t really miss bats he induces enough weak contact to get by.

Injuries

Andrew Triggs was pegged by many to make the leap in 2017, but he suffered a torn labrum in the middle of the year and had to undergo season-ending surgery after just 12 starts on the year.

Dustin Fowler is an outfield prospect who was sent from New York to Oakland in the Sonny Gray deal. You may recall his name as the player who ruptured his knee in the first inning of his first major-league game. He’ll miss the entire season.

Bobby Wahl is a reliever who Oakland was hoping to get back in August but a setback in his rehab resulted in season-ending surgery.

Paul Blackburn had a strong debut in Oakland’s rotation, but he suffered a season-ending hand injury in mid-August.

Weather Forecast

It should be a solid week at Fenway for the A’s and Red Sox. It won’t be totally clear skies, but it looks like they won’t have issues getting these games in. The one issue could come on Wednesday, where there is some chance of rain. As of now, though, it doesn’t appear to be bad enough to cancel the game.