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Red Sox vs. Athletics Series Preview

A look at the upcoming three-man set against Oakland at Fenway.

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Tampa Bay Rays v Oakland Athletics Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

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Athletics Nation

The opponent in one sentence

The Athletics got off to a brutal start this season, but in part thanks to a long win streak they are atop the AL West as they start this three-game set.

Record

21-15

Head-to-head record

0-0

Trend

Even. As mentioned above, the A’s started off horribly, with a 1-7 record. From there they ripped off 13 straight wins to put themselves in a whole new standing. Since then, though, it’s been roughly .500. Most recently, they won two of three from the Rays.

Pitching Matchups

5/11: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Chris Bassitt, 7:10 PM ET

For the most part it has been a good season for Nathan Eovaldi, who is trying to show that he is an underrated starter when he is healthy. Most impressively he has yet to allow a home run this season, which is pretty wild considering the era in which we live. That said, things have been a little bit rougher of late as he’s gotten hit around some in two of his last three starts. Last time out against the Tigers he allowed six runs in just 4 13 innings, struggling to put guys away and allowing too much contact that found its way in for hits. As a result his ERA is up to 4.62, and he’ll look for a rebound here against a good Oakland lineup.

Bassitt is not really a well-known pitcher in the American League, but he is very quietly putting together strong season after strong season. He was solid back in 2019, which was his first full season as a starter, and in the COVID-shortened 2020 he finished with a stellar 2.29 ERA. The FIP was a bit worse at 3.59, but even that is a solid mark over a full season. This year he’s off to a similarly good start, pitching to a 3.70 ERA. He’s missing more bats than usual this year as well, but his best quality is consistently his command as he puts up good walk rates and does a good job of keeping the ball in the yard. Bassitt will feature a pair of fastballs that sit mostly in the low-90s, with the two-seamer being the most frequent of the two, as well as a cutter, a changeup, and the occasional breaking ball.

5/12: Eduardo Rodriguz vs. TBD, 7:10 PM ET

Rodriguez has been the ace of the Red Sox staff this year, which wasn’t something to be totally taken for granted though it was the expectation. He hasn’t been perfect and the stuff hasn’t always been there, but perhaps what’s been most impressive is that he’s been able to make things work even without his A-stuff. That was the case last time out as he struggled to miss bats and wasn’t super efficient but still managed to allow just one run over five innings. It won’t be quite as easy of a task this time around, though, facing a better lineup here against Oakland than he saw in Baltimore over the weekend.

Boston Red Sox v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Oakland hasn’t announced a starter for either of the final two games of this series. For the finale there’s some idea of who could get the call, but as of this writing I’m not really sure about this game. They’re banged up in the rotation which leaves them a bit short-handed, and there’s no one on the roster who is an obvious choice. They do have a trio of starters on the 40-man in Triple-A with Daulton Jeffries, Grant Holmes, and James Kaprielian, but I wouldn’t be able to speculate who is the most likely call-up, or even if that’s the route they’ll definitely take.

5/13: Garrett Richards vs. TBD, 7:10 PM ET (MLB Network for out-of-market)

It’s been quite the turnaround for Richards, who had earned the ire of the fanbase through his first handful of starts this year before turning things around in a big way at the end of April. It’s now been three solid starts in a row from the righty, including the last one. He did allow four runs in his most recent start, but it was still a strong day overall as he made it through seven innings. As we’ve highlighted before, it’s really the control that has stood out the most with Richards in these two runs of his. To start the year he had walked 13 batters in 16 23 innings. Over his last three appearances, he has walked just two over 19 innings of work. Look for him to continue pounding the zone against this Athletics lineup.

Agian, there is no announced starter here but it seems like the Red Sox should get a look at Sean Manaea in this game. The southpaw should be a familiar name to Boston fans as he no-hit the Red Sox back in 2018 when they were playing out on the west coast. He nearly had a perfect game against the Rays his last time out as well before losing it in the eighth inning. Overall he’s been really good this year, pitching to a 3.07 ERA over seven starts in 2021. He’s striking out a good number of batters, but it’s really the eight walks in 41 innings that stand out the most. The Red Sox offense should be looking to be aggressive and jump on any hittable pitches they see, because there probably won’t be a whole lot so you can’t let them go by. Manaea will feature a sinker that sits in the low 90s as well as a pair of nasty secondaries with a changeup and a curveball.

Old Friends

Mitch Moreland seemed like a logical target for the Red Sox this past winter, but they opted to go in a different direction after he’s served as solid veteran depth for a few years. He’s made a nice new home in Oakland.

Jed Lowrie was with the Red Sox way back when before he was traded to Houston for Mark Melancon back prior to the 2012 season. He’s bounced around a bunch since then, but he’s found new life in Oakland this season so far.

Frankie Montas never actually made it to the majors with the Red Sox, but he was in their farm system before heading to Chicago as part of the deal that brought Jake Peavy to Boston back in 2013. He had a couple of strong seasons with Oakland but has taken a big step back over the last two seasons.

Tampa Bay Rays v Oakland Athletics Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

J.B. Wendelken also never made it to the majors with the Red Sox and was also part of that Peavy deal. Recently, he’s made some noise in the Oakland bullpen, though. Right now he’s injured.

Notable Position Players

Matt Chapman is the face of the Athletics these days as an all-around great player. That skillset begins with the glove, though, as he is the best third baseman in the game. He adds a good game at the plate as well, though the power is a bit down and the strikeouts are a bit up so he’s been more pretty good than great in 2021.

Matt Olson is very much a modern hitter with power, walks and strikeouts. To his credit, he’s cut down on his strikeout rate this year and he’s been one of the best hitters in the game as a result.

Mark Canha is among the most underrated hitters in the league and will be a hot commodity in free agency this winter. He can hit for some power, though he hasn’t really this year, and he has tremendous plate discipline.

Ramón Laureano makes a ton of highlight reel plays in the outfield, and at the plate he’s been productive this year thanks to some big power early in the season.

Lowrie, as I said above, is enjoying a very nice season with a 126 wRC+ that is largely thanks to his ability to control the zone.

Moreland is being Mitch Moreland, which means he’s had some clutch hits when they’ve needed him and overall he’s been roughly a league-average hitter.

Sean Murphy isn’t going to put up high batting averages, but he has good power and patience that make him an above-average hitting catcher.

Stephen Piscotty has struggled to get going this year as he’s not getting the quality of contact needed to put up big numbers.

Elvis Andrus was traded from Texas to Oakland last winter and he has been terrible in 2021 with a minuscule 18 wRC+, which makes him the game’s worst hitter by that metric.

Bullpen Snapshot

Lou Trivino heads an Oakland bullpen that is always good year in and year out. Trivino gets most of the saves, and while he’s had some issues with control the stuff is good enough to make up for that.

Jake Diekman gets some saves himself as a left-handed option in the late innings. He’s been dominant this year, too, in just about every respect.

Yusmeiro Petit has been the best reliever in this bullpen with an 0.87 ERA, and he does it without missing many bats. Instead, his command has been impeccable.

Injuries

Jesús Luzardo suffered a fracture in his hand while playing a video game earlier this month. The video game is still not known as far as I can tell. It’s going to be a while until he can return.

A.J. Puk went down early this season with a biceps injury, but he should be back relatively soon. I wouldn’t expect it to be for this series though.

Trevor Rosenthal underwent TOS surgery early in April and could miss the entire season. It’s a brutal injury that has undone some careers, including Tyler Thornburg.

Mike Fiers just recently went down with an elbow injury that will sideline him for at least a month or so.

J.B. Wendelken went down with an oblique injury earlier this month. His timeline to return is unclear.

Chad Pinder has been out for most of the season with a knee injury, but he started a rehab recently and could be back soon, perhaps even at some point this week.

Aramis Garcia is fighting off some kind of stomach bug.

Weather Forecast

Things should be pretty much all clear this week in Boston with temperatures in the 60s every night.


A big thank you to FanGraphs, and particularly their Roster Resource tool, as well as Baseball Savant for research.