Eventually, the grind proved to just be too much. With a grueling schedule in May forcing the Red Sox suit up if not play (they had two rainouts) twenty straight days, Boston just couldn't quite keep it up, turning a 13-2 record from the first fifteen games into a 13-6 record with four straight losses.
An admirable record, no doubt, but one which looks a lot worse when you're only looking at the last four.
Now, fresh off a day off and with another on the immediate horizon, the Red Sox will have a chance to right the ship against an Oakland team on their own losing streak having dropped three straight to the Yankees.
Typically, Oakland coming to Boston wouldn't be too threatening if only for the fact that the team just doesn't ever score runs, at home or away. In fact, despite playing in the cavernous Coliseum, somehow the Athletics find themselves even more offensively bankrupt on the road.
The problem is that the White Sox weren't too good either, and they put up at least seven runs in each of their three games.
The good news is that, for two of the three games, the Red Sox will use a rather more solid type of starter...
Oh, and John Lackey. They'll be using him too.
Boston Red Sox (30-26) vs. Oakland Athletics (27-30)
Friday, June 3, 7:05 p.m.
Clay Buchholz (4-3, 3.41 ERA) vs. Josh Outman (1-0, 2.08 ERA)
What isn't there to love about Clay Buchholz of late? Well, the stiff back and homers against Detroit, to be sure. But otherwise, May was Buchholz' month. 39 innings (it would have been more butf for a rainout) of 2.08 ERA ball, and more-than-solid peripherals to back it up thanks to a very low walk rate and a ton of ground balls.
Interestingly, Outman shares one of those figures with Clay in his two games: the 2.08 ERA. The problem is that this figure is entirely unsustainable, supported as it is by twice as many walks as strikeouts and flyball tendencies. While Outman has been noticeably better (if not entirely good) for the Athletics in the past, he had allowed 27 walks in just 37.2 innings of work in Triple-A this year, so this seems to be an ongoing problem rather than a two-game blip on the proverbial radar.
Saturday, June 4, 1:10 p.m.
Josh Beckett (4-2, 1.80 ERA) vs. Trevor Cahill (6-3, 2.31 ERA)
While Josh Beckett continues to dominate opposing lineups, there is reason to worry. Over his last three games, Beckett has given up 10 walks in 18.2 innings, striking out only 14 batters along the way. He's also seen a good deal of hard contact of late, largely being saved thanks to his defense. There's no reason to panic just yet, but it would be nice to see Beckett put up another performance against the Athletics like the ones he had back in mid-April.
Of course, the same-and-more goes for Trevor Cahill, who has 12 walks and 12 strikeouts in his last 18.2 innings. Still, both are good pitchers-even great, this year-and there's every reason to expect both to bounce back against, well, eachother.
Sunday, June 5, 1:35 p.m.
John Lackey (2-5, 8.01 ERA) vs. Brett Anderson (3-5, 3.68 ERA)
So let's say the Red Sox win the first two games. Maybe they're looking pretty good, not giving up runs, scoring a good few of their own, playing solid all-around baseball.
Well, just when you thought it was safe to go back to Fenway, Boston runs into perhaps the worst pitching matchup that could ever be.
John Lackey, he of not recording outs, comes face to face with Brett Anderson, he of not giving up hits to the Sox.
When last these two met, John Lackey was actually fairly impressive. This was during the streak of great starting pitching from the Red Sox, and Lackey did not disappoint, providing six innings of one-run ball. Who knows, maybe he can even manage that again. He tends to fair pretty well against the offensively weaker AL West teams.
But it's hard to imagine Brett Anderson is going to allow another nine runs like he just did to the Yankees. Sure, there's a lot not to love about Anderson of late. He's been wild, he's struggled against tough competition, and he just hasn't really maintained the level he was at earlier. And he's still entirely likely to come into Fenway and kill the Red Sox, because that's just the sort of thing that some guys do, Anderson included.
Advantage: Oakland, if only in this one game.