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Red Sox vs. Athletics Series Preview

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A look at the upcoming three-game set against the A’s.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Oakland Athletics Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

SB Nation Blog

Athletics Nation

The Opponent in one sentence

The Athletics haven’t been on the same scale as the Red Sox, but they’ve been a bit disappointing this year as they’ve struggled to beat good teams and to win games on the road.

Record

14-16

Head-to-Head Record

Red Sox 1, Athletics 3

Trend

Down. It’s been a rough stretch for the Athletics, who are fresh off being swept on the road against the Blue Jays. They did sweep the Rangers immediately before that, but immediately before that they were swept by...the Blue Jays again! Overall, Oakland has lost eight of their last twelve.

Pitching Matchups

4/29: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Frankie Montas, 7:10 PM ET

Early in the year, Eduardo Rodriguez was all kinds of frustrating in all of the worst ways possible for the lefty. He was inefficient, he was falling in love with specific pitches and refusing to mix it up, and he was just plain not attacking. Lately, though, he’s turned it around and is improbably the starting pitcher in which I have the most confidence right now. That is bound to end poorly for me, but I’m riding this high as long as I can. Over his last three starts, Rodriguez has pitched to a 3.00 ERA while allowing a .593 OPS with 21 strikeouts and only four walks over 18 innings. In fact, his last truly poor start was in Oakland when the A’s scored six runs in just 3 23 innings. This will be a big test against a team that has shown they can hit him and also features a number of tough right-handed hitters.

Montas is a name that may sound familiar to you as a former Red Sox prospect. He was traded to the White Sox as part of the 2013 trade that brought Jake Peavy to Boston, and was sent to Oakland in a separate deal a couple years later. He’s been part of Oakland’s rotation all year thus far but in the past has spit time between the rotation and bullpen. The righty has made five starts in 2019 and has pitched to a solid 3.10 ERA, though his 4.16 FIP is not as encouraging. He’s shown off solid stuff with eight strikeouts per nine innings and his control has been fine, but he’s allowed four home runs in five starts despite a ground ball rate near 60 percent. Look for the Red Sox to try and get some balls in the air on Monday. If they are pounding it into the ground, it could be another long night for a scuffling lineup. Montas is going to feature a pair of mid-to-high 90s fastballs as well as a slider and a splitter.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

4/30: Rick Porcello vs. Aaron Brooks, 7:10 PM ET

Like the rest of the Red Sox rotation, Porcello has been trending in the right direction with his last few times out, though he still hasn’t put together a great start. The good news is that the control issues that weirdly plagued him early in the year have seemingly gone away. After walking 12 batters in his first three starts, he’s issued just two free passes (and has hit one batter) over his last two. He’s also recorded one more out in his last two outings than he did in his first three. Now, it’s just about making a few more good pitches and avoiding being hit hard. To be fair to Porcello he has left the Red Sox in a position to win in each of his last two starts, and that’s exactly what they’ve done in those games. If this is where Porcello stays it won’t be the end of the world, though no one would complain about another step forward.

Brooks was the man behind one of the more frustrating games of the Red Sox season to this point, with the righty totally shutting down Boston’s offense for six innings. They managed just two hits and one walk over that time, and it was shocking given his lack of experience and success in the majors. To me, he looked a lot better than expected, though the Red Sox did help him out with that. Since that season-opening start for him, things haven’t gone as smoothly with a 6.86 ERA over his four outings since seeing the Red Sox with 17 strikeouts and six walks over 21 innings. He’s also allowed six home runs. Boston’s hitters are going to have to take what they saw last time and make some adjustments, as they can’t afford a similar performance this time around. Brooks features a pair of low-to-mid-90s fastballs along with a slider and a changeup.

4/31: TBD vs. Mike Fiers, 1:05 PM ET

The Red Sox have not yet announced a starter for the series finale at Fenway, though presumably it is going to be Hector Velázquez. The righty last started on Tuesday, and while Josh Smith is still on the roster for some reason I don’t anticipate he’ll take away a spot start from Velázquez. The latter is still struggling to make it deep into games, with his last outing being a good example of this. He was fantastic through three innings having faced the minimum, but his second trip through the order was short-lived. The Red Sox need to find a way to get him stretched out more and get him at least through five, because they don’t have the bullpen depth to need five or six innings from that group at least once every five days.

Fiers has made more starts than anyone in baseball thanks to Oakland starting the year early in Japan, with this outing being his eighth of the year. Things have not gone well for the righty, though, as he has pitched to an ERA of 7.03 with peripherals only a little better than that. He’s striking out seven batters per nine innings, and while he’s walking fewer than three per nine he’s cancelling that out by having allowed seven home runs already. Of course, the Red Sox gave him one of his best starts of the year when he tossed six shutout innings early in the year. He’ll have a little confidence with a solid start in Toronto last time out, and Boston needs to get to him early to avoid allowing him to settle into any kind of groove. Fiers will feature a pair of high-80s/low-90s fastballs along with a curveball, a changeup and a cutter.

Old Friends

Montas, as mentioned above, was a former Red Sox prospect who never made it to the majors with the club.

J.B. Wendelken is another former Red Sox prospect, and he has infact followed the same path as Montas. Wendelken was also part of the Jake Peavy trade and then sent to Oakland in the same deal that brought Montas to the left coast. Wendelken is now serving in a middle relief role in Oakland’s bullpen.

Notable Position Players

Matt Chapman has officially joined the upper echelon of players in this league and looks to be a legitimate MVP candidate for years to come. He is perhaps (probably? definitely?) the best defensive third baseman in the game and at the plate he brings big power. This year he’s added a new wrinkle of walking more than he strikes out, which is a major development given some former swing and miss problems.

Khris Davis is struggling a bit this year, though that seems at least a little fluky. The important thing to remember here is that Davis remains one of the scariest power hitter in all of baseball and has ten home runs in this young season.

Marcus Semien is off to a great start this year, showing more power than he has in a few years but more importantly is featuring the best plate discipline we’ve seen from the shortstop at any point of his career.

Stephen Piscotty isn’t quite hitting for the same power we saw in 2018, but he’s still the same solid hitter as ever who draws some walks, hits for some power and generally makes solid contact.

Kendrys Morales has great plate discipline numbers but that hasn’t mattered because his power has fallen off a cliff early in 2019.

Ramón Laureano has struggled at the plate this year thanks to a lot of strikeouts and few walks. His defense more than makes up for it, though. Maybe let’s not run on that arm this time around?

Toronto Blue Jays v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Jurickson Profar is having an absolutely brutal start to his season, putting a whole lot of balls in play but doing so with very little authority.

Mark Canha isn’t an everyday player, but he’s a lefty masher and should at least get the start on Monday.

Robbie Grossman is the other end of that platoon and he won’t provide much power but can draw walks at the top of the lineup.

Bullpen Snapshot

Blake Treinen has not been the same guy as last year when he was the best reliever in the game, or at least in the conversation. The righty is still getting strikeouts, but the grounders haven’t been there and his control has deteriorated.

Lou Trivino has been dominant in a setup role, though, with over 11 strikeouts per nine innings and just one walk in 12 appearances. However, he hasn’t pitched in about a week.

Injuries

Matt Olson had his hand fractured on a hit by pitch back in March in the Japan series, but he could be working his way back soon. The A’s are hoping he can start a rehab assignment this week.

Sean Manaea underwent major shoulder surgery towards the end of last season that many thought would keep him out for most or all of 2019. However, he is working his way back and there’s a chance he returns around midseason.

Marco Estrada underwent an ablation procedure on his back, and please don’t ask me what that means. There is no timetable for his return, though it doesn’t appear to be anything too serious.

Jharel Cotton underwent Tommy John surgery last year and is hoping to return at some point in the next six weeks or so, though that’s far from a sure thing.

Chris Herrmann underwent knee surgery near the start of camp and is going to be out for at least another month.

Daniel Gossett underwent Tommy John surgery towards the end of last season and is likely going to be out of action for all of 2019, at least at the major-league level.

Nick Martini has been out since the middle of March with a knee sprain, but it appears he could be close to a return.

Weather Forecast

It is not going to be the nicest week in Boston, with temperatures not getting higher than mid-50s and there being some showers throughout. None of these games should be in danger, but one wouldn’t describe this series as being played in baseball weather.