BOSTON - APRIL 17: Clay Buchholz #11 of the Boston Red Sox throws against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park on April 17, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
The Red Sox will send Clay Buchholz to the mound Monday, hoping for better results from the weakest link of their rotation as he takes on the American League's worst offense in the Athletics.
The Red Sox will return to Fenway in much better shape than when they last left. After suffering through a 5-game losing streak to the Rays, Rangers, and Yankees in the hallowed halls of Fenway Park, the Sox headed to the Midwest and pulled off a 6-1 road trip against the White Sox and Twins. Now, just one game under .500, they'll hope that they can keep their momentum going with a strong homestand starting with the Oakland Athletics.
The story is the same as always for the Athletics: all pitching and defense, no offense. Despite having the advantage of the DH, the Athletics have the second worse offense in all of baseball. Still, through 23 games they're sticking right by .500 thanks to the 3.11 ERA of their pitching staff.
Can the Red Sox take advantage of the close confines of Fenway Park to score some runs on what has been a very stingy team so far? Can the likes of Clay Buchholz finally produce some quality results against a weak-hitting Oakland lineup? Or will the Athletics keep the bats quiet and set the Sox off on another losing streak?
Boston Red Sox (10-11) vs. Oakland Athletics (12-13)
Monday, April 30, 7:10 p.m. EST
Clay Buchholz (2-1, 8.67 ERA) vs. Tommy Milone (3-1, 2.00 ERA)
With Aaron Cook's opt-out date imminent, this could be the last chance Clay Buchholz has to keep himself in the lineup for the immediate future. With four straight outings of five earned runs or more, the Sox can't afford to keep Buchholz making major league starts while they wait for him to find his changeup and fastball control. They are lucky enough to have won two of his four games so far, but that's not a pace they can keep up if he keeps pitching like this.
Young lefty Tommy Milone is off to a fast start in his first full season. A part of the trade that sent Gio Gonzalez to Washington over the winter, Milone will have difficulty staying on track if recent Sox results are any indication. You see, Milone is nothing if not a junkballer, featuring a mid-high 80s fastball, and it's exactly that sort of pitcher who the Red Sox dominated in their recent winning streak. Milone could always put an end to that, but with the lefty mashers in the Sox' lineup, it seems a bit unlikely.
Tuesday, May 1, 7:10 p.m. EST
Felix Doubront (1-0, 4.09 ERA) vs. Jarrod Parker (0-0, 1.42)
Felix Doubront continues to provide solid outings and wins for the Red Sox, who have now won three of the four games he started. Doubront was at arguably his worst in his last outing, struggling to put batters away and ending up walking more than he struck out. That problem could come back to haunt Doubront, as the Athletics have one of the lowest swinging strike percentages in the game.
A more traditional fastball - changeup - slider pitcher, the Sox could have a lot more trouble with Jarrod Parker. One thing Parker has not done a lot of so far is throw strikes, so the onus will be on the Boston lineup to stay patient with the young righty and let him hang himself by getting behind in the count.
Wednesday, May 2, 7:10 p.m. EST
Daniel Bard (2-2, 3.72 ERA) vs. Brandon McCarthy (1-3, 3.23 ERA)
Daniel Bard continue to prove the organization right in its decision to switch him to the starting rotation. A dominant performance against the White Sox brought his ERA down under 4.00 on the season, and frankly the A's don't seem like the sort of team that could threaten to derail him.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, seem like exactly the sort of team to derail Brandon McCarthy. While McCarthy is off to a typically good start to his year, the Red Sox have always killed him. Ironically, the only team he's been worse against in his career are his own Oakland Athletics. McCarthy is still a quality pitcher, but for whatever reason he just doesn't bring it against Boston.