The Red Sox will finish up their West Coast trip with a three-game set against the Oakland Athletics in the Coliseum.
While the Red Sox could only manage a 2-2 split in their series against the Mariners, they'll be hoping for more against the Athletics. Like the Mariners, the Athletics are hanging around the bottom of the AL West, albeit 4.5 games up on their Seattle-based competition. And, like the Mariners, they're all about preventing runs, with an American League low of 302 allowed, and not about scoring them, with an American League low 300 to their name.
With the Mariners, the series played to Seattle's strength, with low scores throughout. When the Athletics were in Boston earlier in the year, they took two-of-three, snagging a pair of low-scoring games and losing the one game where the Sox picked up 11 and surrendered six.
Still, given their ability to hold Seattle to just five total runs in their four-game series, the Sox may have shown they can play the shutdown game as well. While they'd certainly prefer shootouts (or, of course, blowouts), perhaps they don't need them to win. And given the three starters the Sox are sending to the mound, they might prefer to see some low-scoring affairs.
Boston Red Sox (42-37) at Oakland Athletics (38-42)
Monday, July 2, 10:05 p.m. EST
Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-2, 4.91 ERA) vs. Jarrod Parker (4-3, 2.57 ERA)
Daisuke finally got the start he needed to keep his name firmly in the rotation mix. He lasted just 5.2 innings against the Blue Jays, but with just one earned run, seven baserunners, and five strikeouts, it was a solid outing worthy of a few more starts. The Toronto Blue Jays, however, have never really given him much trouble. Then again, neither have the Athletics. With a 3.69 ERA in 39 innings and a 44:13 K:BB, Matsuzaka has thrived against their weak lineups, and should hopefully continue to do so now.
A 23-year-old rookie, Jarrod Parker doesn't exactly have much history to draw on with the Red Sox, but what he does have is positive. 6.2 innings of one-run ball back on May 1 is a positive experience to draw upon, and not atypical for him these days. In five June starts, Parker allowed six earned runs once, and then a total of two in his other four. This seems to be the trend for Parker: one bad outing surrounded by four great ones. The Sox just have to hope they hit him on a bad day.
Tuesday, July 3, 10:05 p.m. EST
Jon Lester (5-5, 4.53 ERA) vs. Bartolo Colon (6-7, 4.22 ERA)
Despite all appearances, Jon Lester has been improving of late. In 33.2 June innings, he struck out 31 batters, walked five, and pitched to a 4.01 ERA. Still, he's been frustrated by his inability to produce a single really impressive start, allowing at least three runs in each of those five June starts. Hopefully the soft bats of the Athletics provide him the opportunity. It's far too late for Lester to really be hitting his stride for the first time.
The medical miracle that is Bartolo Colon hasn't quite held up to his 2011 form despite a change of venue from the short porch of New Yankee Stadium to the long everything of the Coliseum. Making his return from the disabled list likely won't help Colon either. But he's still been serviceable for the year. Still, given the relative strengths of the lineups, Lester should have a big leg-up in this matchup.
Wednesday, July 4, 4:05 p.m. EST
NESN/MLB Network, WEEI
Franklin Morales (1-1, 2.59 ERA) vs. A.J. Griffin (0-0, 1.50 ERA)
Franklin Morales was once again absolutely stellar against the Mariners, going head-to-head with Felix Hernandez at his very best for seven innings. Allowing just four earned runs in 25 June innings, Morales is on an unbelievable roll that the Sox can only hope he will come close to maintaining over the next few weeks. With the Athletics not exactly providing him any new challenges, the odds are good that it lasts at least one more week.
A.J. Griffin's results have successfully made the jump to the majors in his first two starts, but his peripherals have taken the fall-off expected of a soft-tossing righty such as himself. Still, shutting out the Rangers for six innings is impressive enough to make a believer out of a few skeptics. The Sox will likely need a trip through the lineup to get a good look at Griffin. What they do after that will likely determine the outcome of the game.
For more Boston Red Sox coverage, visit our team page and blog, Over the Monster.