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Red Sox at Athletics Series Preview

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The Red Sox head out west to take on the Athletics.

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Oakland Athletics v Boston Red Sox Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images

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Athletics Nation

The opponent in one sentence

The Athletics are hanging around near the top of the AL West, just like they do every year, with a balanced roster and strong play on both sides.

Record

48-35

Head-to-head record

Red Sox 1, Athletics 2

Trend

Down. The Athletics spent a lot of time atop their division this year, but the second half of June has not been very kind. They are coming directly off a series loss to the Rangers, and they have not won a series since the one they started against the Angels on June 14. Since that series, they have gone 5-8 and have lost eight of their last 12.

Pitching Matchups

7/2: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Frankie Montas, 9:40 PM ET

It has been a very strange season for Rodriguez, who is still looking for a way to consistently get the desired results despite continuing to put up strong peripherals. The good news is there was a little bit of improvement seen his last time out against the Yankees. In that start, the southpaw allowed only two runs, his lowest total since May 7, and struck out eight while walking one. One strong showing isn’t going to be enough to pull him out of his extended slump, and there were still five hits including a homer, but it’s also worth noting he had 35 strikeouts and only six walks over 26 June innings. There’s a real chance for a second-half bounceback coming up for Rodriguez, and I’m cautiously optimistic. Rodriguez faced Oakland earlier this year, allowing four runs over six innings on nine strikeouts and one walk.

Montas is a former Red Sox prospect who has since settled into Oakland’s rotation. Just a couple of years ago it appeared he’d be able to at least stick as a mid-rotation arm, but the last two seasons have not gone as well. This season, the righty has pitched to a 4.72 ERA, watching his strikeout rate fall some while his flyball tendencies have led to 14 homers in 16 starts. He had been finding a bit of a groove in late May and early June with four straight homer-less starts, but he’s allowed three over his last two outings with an 8.44 ERA in those starts. Montas will feature a pair of mid-90s fastballs along with a splitter and a slider.

Kansas City Royals v Boston Red Sox Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

7/3: Garrett Richards vs. Cole Irvin, 7:15 PM ET (FOX)

This is going to be a fascinating start to watch for Richards, who has been having a real rough go of it lately after MLB announced their crackdowns on pitchers using sticky substances to help grip the baseball. The righty has been open about this having an effect on him, and it’s certainly shown in the results, with a 9.18 ERA over his last four starts. The one glimmer of hope right now is that Richards did turn things around in his last start after blowing up in the first two innings, turning to a different repertoire with a new changeup and a slower curveball. That was a good sign, but it also came against a struggling Royals lineup and, again, came after he had already blown up. I’m skeptical, but Richards will get what could be his final chance in this rotation, at least for a bit, to show he can pitch without substances.

Irvin is a former Phillies prospect who made his way over to Oakland prior to this season in a deal with cash going back to Philadelphia. So far, the deal has worked out very well for the A’s, with Irvin pitching to a 3.64 ERA. The southpaw doesn’t have a ton of swing and miss stuff, consistently striking out fewer than 20 percent of his opponents, but he's shown impeccable control with a walk rate just over four percent. Irvin does give up a lot of fly balls as well, but to this point at least he has been great at keeping the ball in the yard. His ability to continue doing so will determine how long he can sustain this performance. The Red Sox are also catching him coming off his best start of the year, tossing eight shutout innings against the Giants with eight strikeouts and two walks. Irvin will feature a pair of low-90s fastballs along with a slider and a changeup.

7/4: Nick Pivetta vs. James Kaprielian, 4:07 PM ET

Speaking of former Phillies prospects looking better in their new digs, Pivetta gets the series finale for Boston on the Fourth. The righty has taken a bit of a step back since his peak back in May, but he is still going out there and pitching well often enough to be at least a good back-end starter. Right now, he appears to be on a one-on, one-off kind of routine, having tossing 6 23 innings of no-hit ball two starts ago before allowing six runs without getting out of the fifth against the Royals last time out. If the trend continues, things should be setting up for Pivetta to bounce back this time around.

Once upon a time, Kaprielian was one of the Yankees’ top pitching prospects, having been their first-round pick back in 2015. Injuries continued to derail any progress he was making in his development, though, and New York eventually sent him to Oakland in the deal that sent Sonny Gray to the Bronx. This has been Kaprielian’s first taste of regular time in a major-league rotation, and it’s gone very well. He’s only made nine starts after missing some time early in the year, but the righty has a 3.06 ERA. The peripherals suggest he should be much closer to average given some command issues, but the results have continued to come as he misses bats and racks up more than a strikeout per inning. This will be the second time Boston has seen him after he made his first major-league start against them back in May, allowing just one run over five innings. Kaprielian will feature a fastball that sits around 93 mph along with a slider and a changeup.

Boston Red Sox World Series Travel Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Old Friends

Montas, as mentioned above, is a former Red Sox prospect. He was traded away way back in 2013 when he was a part of the deal that brought Jake Peavy to Boston.

Mitch Moreland was of course a huge part of the 2018 team and turned himself into a fan favorite in Boston after just a couple of seasons with the Red Sox. With the team struggling last summer, he was sent to San Diego for Jeisson Rosario and Hudson Potts, and has spent this season as the DH for Oakland.

Jed Lowrie originally came up with the Red Sox back in the early 2010s, and has bounced around the league since then, working around injury issues to continue resurfacing on someone’s infield.

J.B. Wendelken was also part of that 2013 trade that sent Montas out of Boston, and Wendelken has somewhat improbably turned himself into a very good righty out of the bullpen.

Notable Position Players

Matt Chapman is one of two Matts who lead this Oakland team. Chapman is best known for his all-world defense at third base, but he’s always been an underrated bat. That said, the offense has taken a bit of a dip this season, with the strikeout rate climbing enough to make the overall line just slightly above average.

Matt Olson is the other Matt, and this season he’s been the team’s best player. The first baseman is one of the best defensive players at his position as well, and at the plate he boasts huge power along with much-improved contact-making abilities.

Ramón Laureano is best known for his highlight reel plays in the outfield, but he also provides big punch in the middle of this lineup.

Tony Kemp will serve as the leadoff man on most days, and he’s been a great on-base guy this year with more walks than strikeouts.

Moreland, as mentioned above, is DH’ing these days with Olson at first base. It’s been a tough year offensively, however, as neither the power nor the patience have been able to get his line above average.

Sean Murphy is one of the more underrated backstops in the game, providing good defense behind the plate along with an above-average bat thanks to his power.

Lowrie had a massive start to the season, but since then has been reeling and his line is now down to exactly average (by wRC+) heading into this three-game set.

Elvis Andrus came to Oakland in a surprise deal with Texas that sent Khris Davis to the Rangers, and Andrus has been a disaster at the plate this season with a 57 wRC+.

Seth Brown is a platoon bat at the bottom of this Oakland lineup, and he’s seen his power output be negated by a sub-.200 BABIP.

Bullpen Snapshot

Lou Trivino is not your traditional closer, as his stuff is just average rather than elite. Instead, he uses his modest strikeout rate and a solid ground ball rate to get big results in the ninth inning.

Jake Diekman is a tough lefty for the late innings, and he’s more of a traditional reliever in that he masks command lapses with consistent, big-time stuff.

Yusmeiro Petit is an even more extreme version of Trivino, posting a strikeout rate of just over four per nine innings, but still posting a 3.24 ERA. He’ll go for multiple innings when necessary, too.

Injuries

Mark Canha just hit the injured list about a week ago with a hip injury, and he’ll miss this series, likely sitting out until after the break.

Trevor Rosenthal has been out all season after undergoing TOS surgery in early April, and the A’s are hoping to get him back on the mound in about a month.

Mike Fiers has been out for nearly two months with an elbow injury, and it doesn’t seem like things are progressing all that well.

Stephen Piscotty went down with a wrist injury in the middle of June, and it’s not clear when he’ll be able to make his way back.

Weather Forecast

The Red Sox escape the heat and humidity for a bit this week, as temperatures should be cool in the 70s and 60s with little to no threat of rain getting in the way.


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