SB Nation Blog
The opponent in one sentence
The Athletics are a second straight team on the Red Sox schedule who infuriated their fan base by selling off a lot of top talent and now find themselves among the very worst teams in all of baseball.
Down. The A’s have been trending down since the lockout ended and they traded Matts Olson and Chapman, really, but recently they’ve hit a big skid in their schedule. They are coming immediately off a sweep at the hands of the Astros, which itself was preceded by losing three of four to the Rangers. For all my math heads out there, that’s six losses in their last seven games.
6/3: Nathan Eovaldi vs. James Kaprielian, 9:40 PM ET
The big issue for Nathan Eovaldi this season, as anyone who has been paying attention knows all too well, has been the long ball. He allowed another one last time out in an otherwise great start — the first complete game of his career — and he’s allowed at least one in eight of his nine starts so far this season. The best fix for that should be heading to a spacious ballpark with one of the worst power-hitting teams in the entire league. That’s what he gets traveling to Oakland to take on the A’s. Even with the home run problems Eovaldi has been pretty good, but the Red Sox could really use a homerless streak for him to get back to borderline ace status.
Kaprielian might be a familiar name for some going back to his days as a prospect in the Yankees system, but the former first round pick was never able to break out of the minors with New York, largely due to injury issues. He’s since made his way to Oakland where he spent his first significant time in the bigs last season. He was fine in 2021, but this season has been a struggle. The righty has watched his strikeout rate fall significantly while issuing more walks, leading to a 5.93 ERA and a FIP that is only very slightly better. He’s also allowed at least four runs in each of his last two starts, and has allowed five homers over his last three. Kaprielian will feature a fastball that sits 92-94, along with a slider, changeup, and curveball.
6/4: Nick Pivetta vs. Paul Blackburn, 4:07 PM ET
While the Red Sox continue to wait for Eovaldi to get back to where he was last season, it’s been Pivetta picking up the slack of late as the team’s best pitcher. Going back to his second start on May, the righty has pitched to an impressive 1.59 ERA, striking out 30 batters while walking only two over 34 innings of work. He’s also allowed more than one run in just one of the five starts in this stretch, lasting at least six innings in all of them as well. After a brutal start to his season, he found a mechanical tweak which has allowed him to throw strikes, and as long as he continues to do so I see little reason to doubt he can handle a lineup like Oakland’s.
Blackburn has had sort of a weird career in Oakland in that he’s spent just small amounts of time in the majors each year going back to 2017. Now, some of that is injury as he was placed on the 60-day injured list (then DL) in both 2017 and 2018. Still, across all of these seasons he only has 192 1⁄3 total innings. He’s already tied his career-high for starts this season with 10, and he’s been quite good in them with a 2.15 ERA and a 3.18 FIP. He’s not going to miss a ton of bats, instead relying on control and command with 5.6 percent walk rate and a ground ball tendency that has allowed him to keep the ball in the yard at a strong rate. Blackburn will feature a pair of fastballs (though skewed heavily towards his sinker) that sit in the low-90s along with a changeup, cutter, and curveball.
6/5: Rich Hill vs. Frankie Montas, 4:07 PM ET
Back in 2015, Hill revitalized his career with the Red Sox, turning an impressive September into a multi-year deal with the Athletics. Now he returns to Oakland at the end of his career, and it’s not really clear what he can be from start to start. More often than not this season he’s been effective, albeit with a relatively limited workload, but as we saw last time out he is liable to be hit around whenever he takes the mound. Without a pitch that can hit 90 mph, he needs to be on point with his command and make sure he gets ahead in counts so he can show off all of the different arm angles and curveballs he throws. But when that doesn’t happen and hitters can sit on his pitches, things go downhill quickly.
The Red Sox do have the misfortune of having to face off against by far the best player on this Athletics roster this year in Montas. A former Red Sox prospect, he has blossomed in Oakland and is expected to be one of the hottest targets at the trade deadline this season. He’s been awesome once again to start this season with a 3.20 ERA and a 3.10 FIP. He’s not really elite at any one thing, but he’s above-average across all areas to lead to consistently strong results. Montas will feature two mid-90s fastballs, a splitter which is the centerpiece of his arsenal, and a slider.
Montas, as mentioned just above, is a former Red Sox prospect. He was still very early in his career when he was sent to the White Sox back in 2013 in the trade that brought Jake Peavy to the Red Sox. Peavy helped the Red Sox win a World Series so Boston doesn’t regret the trade, but Montas would look very good in this rotation right now.
Jed Lowrie of course came up with the Red Sox way back in 2008 and served as a solid utility man for Boston for a few years, struggling to stay healthy but producing relatively well when on the field. He was traded to Houston prior to the 2012 season, and he’s been bouncing all around the league since then.
Domingo Tapia was part of that infamous 2020 Red Sox pitching staff, making five appearances for the Red Sox in that dismal season.
Notable Position Players
Ramón Laureano is arguably the best position player for the A’s these days, and while that’s probably not a sign of a great team he’s a really solid player. He plays good defense in the outfield with the chance to make the highlight reels on any ball, and also has some pop at the plate with good patience.
Tony Kemp has good plate discipline and is going to be very tough to strike out, but he’s still well below average overall this season thanks to an extreme lack of power.
Sean Murphy could be another interesting trade candidate this summer or perhaps next winter as a good defensive catcher while being around league-average at the plate, which is very good for the position.
Lowrie is in a similar zone as Kemp in that he is being held down by being unable to provide any power, even with doubles, at the plate.
Seth Brown has been able to hit for solid power, but he is still hovering around league-average thanks to a relatively high strikeout rate.
Luis Barrera hasn’t played a ton this year but has been good when he’s gotten in thanks to a high contact rate and some patience thrown in.
Elvis Andrus is having a little bit of a renaissance at the plate in a similar vein as Barrera, relaying on putting balls in play.
Sheldon Neuse is supposed to be a big power bat as long as he makes enough contact, but there’s been very little power so far this season.
Cristian Pache was part of the Olson return prior to the start of the season and he’s an outstanding defensive player whose offense has not yet been up to snuff.
Dany Jiménez handles the ninth inning for the Athletics, and while he boasts an impressive 2.47 FIP that seems to mostly trace back to not having allowed a home run, which doesn’t feel sustainable. He can miss bats, but patience should lead to traffic and hopefully runs.
A.J. Puk is probably the best reliever in this bullpen. A former starting pitching prospect, he has great control and solid swing and miss stuff to help him pitch to a sub-2.00 ERA.
Zach Jackson is another guy who has not yet allowed a home run, but his control issues are more extreme than Jiménez which has led to some poor outings.
It doesn’t look like it’s going to be a particularly beautiful weekend in the Bay Area, but we should avoid any weather-related delays or cancellations.