SB Nation Blog
The Opponent in one sentence
The Athletics are off to a surprisingly solid start thanks to an underrated lineup that can mask some issues with the pitching staff.
Up. The Red Sox are catching Oakland at their hottest point of the season having just won four in a row including a series sweep at home against the White Sox. For what it may be worth, that sweep was the team’s first series victory of the year, though they did split one with Texas towards the start of the season.
4/20: Drew Pomeranz vs. Kendall Graveman, 10:05 PM ET
The Red Sox get another pitcher back into their rotation on Friday with Pomeranz making his first start of 2018. The lefty exited an early spring training start early with forearm discomfort that caused him to miss the rest of camp. Fortunately, he was able to come back relatively early and has made two rehab starts to get ready for this Friday night start. This is a big year for Pomeranz, who is set to hit free agency at the end of the year, and he’ll start his quest for a third consecutive strong season against his former team. He made two starts against the A’s in 2017, allowing two runs over ten innings with eleven strikeouts and five walks.
Graveman has been a stalwart in Oakland’s rotation for the last few years, at least when healthy, and while he’s not anything special he’s at least been around league-average year and year. Unfortunately, he’s gotten off to a rough start in 2018 through his first four outings. The righty has pitched to a 9.87 ERA, and this is not a case of a pitcher with one bad start skewing his numbers. Graveman has allowed five runs in three of his starts and four in the other, never recording more than 15 outs. He’s never been one to miss a lot of bats, so if he’s not hitting his spots it will be a good night for the Red Sox. Boston faced him once last year, scoring two runs in six innings with five strikeouts and two walks. Graveman heavily features a mid-90s sinker to go with a curveball and a cutter.
4/21: Chris Sale vs. Sean Manaea, 9:05 PM ET
Sale has gotten off to a great start yet again for the Red Sox despite not really looking quite as dominant as last year for whatever reason. It’s entirely possible he’s purposely holding back, of course, and if that’s the case there’s little reason to expect that to change against the A’s. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect dominant numbers. The Red Sox ace has a 1.23 ERA with almost 13 strikeouts per nine innings and just two walks, which, ya know, is pretty damn good. Sale made one start against Oakland last season and he allowed two runs in seven innings of work with ten strikeouts and no walks.
Manaea is the most exciting starter on the A’s roster as a former top prospect. Injuries hindered his development some and he’s never quite turned into a real star, but at just 26 years old there’s still plenty of room for growth. The results early in the year have been great for the young lefty as he’s pitched to a 1.63 ERA over four starts and 27 2⁄3 innings, and he’s had just one outing in which he’s allowed more than one run. His peripherals aren’t quite as impressive, however, with a FIP of 4.08 largely due to having just 20 strikeouts (6.5 per nine innings) and allowing four home runs already. Manaea throws a low-90s fastball with a changeup and a slider.
4/22: David Price vs. Daniel Mengden, 4:05 PM ET
There was a little bit of worried around Price after his start against the Yankees ended prematurely due to awful performance and a tingling sensation in his hand. Those concerns were put to rest last time out against the Angels as the lefty looked a lot like he did early in the year. Price hasn’t been striking many batters out, but it hasn’t mattered because his command has been pinpoint and he is inducing a ton of weak contact. This year truly seems like we’re seeing vintage Price, and that should continue Sunday afternoon.
The most important thing about Daniel Mengden and the thing that will be the focus of the first part of Sunday’s game is going to be his mustache. See below.
It is....well, it’s certainly a strip of facial hair above the upper lip. No denying that. Once he starts pitching, the righty is fine. Like the other A’s starters we’ll see this weekend he doesn’t strike out a bunch of batters, instead relying on strong control to get through his starts with limited damage. He’s gotten mixed results this year, though he’s coming off his best start of the year in which he allowed just one run over eight innings. The 25-year-old throws a mid-90s fastball along with a slider and a curveball.
Jed Lowrie is the lone old friend on the Athletics’ active roster (they also have former prospect Frankie Montas in their minor-league system). Lowrie, as you may recall, spent a few years in the early part of this decade as a Red Sox utility player before being sent to Houston in the trade that netted Boston Mark Melancon. Since then, Lowrie has bounced back and forth between Houston and Oakland a few times, and he’s settled in as a solid hitter in the middle of their lineup. In fact, since the start of last season he’s sandwiched between Brian Dozier and Edwin Encarnacion on the wRC+ leaderboard.
Notable Position Players
Khris Davis is one of the scariest power hitters in the league with the ability to take any pitcher deep at any moment. He’s generally been hindered by contact issues, but he’s lowered his strikeout rate to a more respectable 23 percent early on this year, and if he can maintain those gains he’s going to take another step forward this year.
Matt Chapman has been one of the best overall players in the game to start this season, and while he likely won’t stay this good he’s been doing just about everything well. He provides great defense at third base and so far this year he’s showing off big power, great plate discipline and good, consistent quality of contact.
Matt Olson came up last year and couldn’t stop hitting home runs. The early parts of this year haven’t featured the same power, but it’s still in that bat and in the meantime he’s being buoyed by a high batting average on balls in play.
Marcus Semien has always seemed to have more potential than he’s shown as a shortstop with power, but contact issues and inconsistent performance have prevented him from really taking a step forward.
Stephen Piscotty was brought in via trade with the Cardinals this winter and he’s gotten off to a solid start at the plate because of a low strikeout rate and a high BABIP.
Jonathan Lucroy was a late free agent signing and while he’s not the star-level player he once appeared to be with a solid all-around skill set.
Blake Treinen is the A’s closer and he’s one of the more underrated late-inning relievers in the game thanks to an impressive power-sinker that keeps the ball in the yard and generates whiffs. The Red Sox will have some trouble putting together late-game rallies against the righty.
Santiago Casilla is most known for his time on the other side of the bay where he served as the Giants closer for parts of five seasons. He came over to Oakland last year, and while he’s past his prime at this point the setup man can still get some strikeouts and if his command is on he can be as effective as ever.
Ryan Buchter is the top lefty in Oakland’s bullpen and while he is inconsistent and can get into issues with the long ball his end-of-year results are generally solid.
Jharel Cotton was one of the more exciting young players in the A’s organization, but he’s been hampered by injuries and underwent Tommy John surgery towards the end of spring training which will cause him to miss the year.
Liam Hendriks had served as a late-inning reliever for Oakland to start the year, but he struggled a bit and is now on the DL with a groin injury.
Yusmeiro Petit is one of my favorite relievers in the game as he combines strong performance with long appearances. He’s not injured but rather is out on family medical leave. It seems he could be back for this series.
Boog Powell started the year as Oakland’s center fielder but he’s going to miss a few weeks with a knee injury.
Josh Phegley was expected to compete for a backup catcher role but he missed the start of the year with a hand injury and when he returns he could be delegated to Triple-A.
Paul Blackburn was going to compete for a back-end rotation slot with a forearm issue that landed him on the 60-day DL.
It’s looking to be a great weekend in the Bay Area as the sun should be shining for all three games and Accuweather describes two of the three days as “pleasant.” I have no idea what that’s like, but it sure sounds nice.