After playing some strong baseball against the Blue Jays, the Red Sox are finally on something of a roll, having won their last three games by a combined 21-3 margin. Now, they have to take their show on the road as they head to the West Coast for the first time, starting with a short two-game series against the Athletics.
If the Red Sox hope to keep their win streak going, though, they're not only going to need to get past the troubles West Coast trips tend to present, but more importantly, they need to see something from two pitchers who have yet to provide a single quality start in five tries between them: John Lackey and Clay Buchholz.
Of course, good pitching is something the Athletics know something about, and the Red Sox are going to have the misfortune of seeing two of their best in Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez.
Tuesday, April 19, 10:05 p.m.
John Lackey (1-1, 15.58 ERA) vs. Brett Anderson (0-1, 2.29 ERA)
10 days of rest may not necessarily be what the doctor ordered for John Lackey, off to a woeful start in 2011, but Oakland's Coliseum might just be. Lackey has taken the mound sixteen times in Oakland, and holds an 8-4 record with a 2.92 ERA in its cavernous confines. Of course, the Athletics haven't been known for their bats in quite a while, and this year doesn't look to be any different. Other than Daric Barton's OPS--sitting at .804--none of the Athletics with any significant number of at bats are even breaking .750, with most sitting under .700. And, sure enough, it's only Daric Barton who has had any success against Lackey. Of course, these days, it's hard to say if even history can keep the bats away from John Lackey's pitches.
For all the success Lackey has had against the Athletics, though, it doesn't compare to what Brett Anderson has done to the Red Sox. In 81 plate appearances, current Red Sox have reached base only 12 times against Anderson, with only Darnell McDonald, Jed Lowrie, and Kevin Youkilis getting on base multiple times. The Sox may be on a roll offensively, but there's really no man better suited to slow them down than Anderson.
Wednesday, April 20, 3:35 p.m.
Clay Buchholz (0-2, 6.60 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (2-0, 0.47 ERA)
Clay Buchholz had the best start of his year last time out against the Blue Jays, but at three runs over just five innings, he still wasn't even close to being the ace that he was in 2010. While he finally managed to avoid the home run ball, his fastball command was entirely absent, resulting in five walks and just three strikeouts. In fact, through the first three games of the season, Clay has accumulated more free passes than K's--hardly a recipe for success.
Unfortunately for Clay, things don't project to get any better for him, as he's one of the pitchers the Athletics really do hit well. Over 54 plate appearances, current Athletics are hitting Clay to the tune of .400/.500/.489. The power is still absent in the Coliseum, but that's not typically an issue when the base paths become a veritable conga line.
As for Gonzalez, well, at least it's better than against Brett Anderson. The Red Sox haven't faced Gonzalez all that much, and when they have they've actually managed to reach base at a decent clip. But with a total of one extra base hit--a David Ortiz double--the overall numbers just don't look all that impressive.
The Red Sox are on a hot streak. Their offense is scoring, their pitchers are shutting down the opposition, and every little thing seems to be going right. But much like against the Rangers, the Athletics might be the perfect team to derail them.