The Red Sox will head into Oakland trying to slow the Athletics down as Oakland starts the final push to the playoffs.
The West Coast has been a miserable place to play for the Red Sox, and Oakland has proven no different. The last time the Sox headed into the Coliseum, they did so on a 13-5 run that had brought them torturously close to the second wild card spot. Oakland was there, however, to put an end to their momentum, sweeping the Red Sox and knocking them back to a point from which they would never recover.
Now, not only do the Red Sox come in far behind the Athletics in terms of pitching quality, but between Josh Reddick, Yoenis Cespedes, and Chris Carter, they seem to have the advantage over the Gonzalez and Ortiz free Red Sox lineup now as well.
The best news for the Red Sox? With the Angels, Orioles, and Rays all close behind the A's for a wild card spot, any losses will still help them to play spoiler for the teams they like the least.
Boston Red Sox (62-70) vs. Oakland Athletics (73-57)
Friday, August 31, 10:05 p.m. EST
Aaron Cook (3-7, 4.76 ERA) vs. Brandon McCarthy (7-5, 3.12 ERA)
The hope for Aaron Cook will be that the Red Sox will put a top defensive infield behind him, and that while they won't score much, he can keep them in the game with ground balls. That's the hope. The reality of late has been a mixed bag. Sometimes he gets the ground balls, sometimes he doesn't. On the whole, he's been as good as anyone can ask of a sixth or seventh starter, but that only tends to lead to wins on good offensive teams, which the Red Sox no longer are.
It's even less likely to lead to wins when the mediocre Boston lineup comes up against a strong pitcher like Brandon McCarthy. He's helped by his home park, no doubt, but when healthy he's someone any team would be happy to have on the mound. The Sox couldn't score against him the last time they faced him, and that's when they had a much more impressive roster.
Saturday, September 1, 9:05 p.m. EST
NESN/MLB Network, WEEI
Felix Doubront (10-6, 4.79 ERA) vs. Brett Anderson (2-0, 0.64 ERA)
Felix Doubront did not look like a man reinvigorated by a two-week break in his last outing, faltering as his pitch count rose. Still, he was sharp early on, and just based on the quality of pitcher, represents the best chance the Red Sox have in this series.
Unfortunately, the Sox' best pitcher will come up against Oakland's. Like McCarthy, Anderson's greatest problem has been health. Now, however, he seems plenty healthy, fresh off the disabled list for Tommy John Surgery and pitching like a man on a mission. The best hope for the Sox here likely lies in the fact that he's only got two major league starts under his belt so far this season, and that could lead to an unexpected bout of shakiness early on.
Sunday, September 2, 4:05 p.m. EST
Daisuke Matsuzaka (1-3, 5.10 ERA) vs. Tommy Milone (11-9, 3.73 ERA)
Daisuke Matsuzaka was good in his last outing. Great, even. But we see that Daisuke all-too-rarely. What's worse, every time he pitches well it comes with an underlying disgruntlement: why couldn't he do this before? Still, it's perhaps best not to look gift horses in their mouths. Then again, Daisuke has never pitched well against Oakland, and his numbers are even worse in the Coliseum, oddly enough. And all that came against less impressive lineups.
Tommy Milone is the easiest competition for the Red Sox in the series, and it shows in the matchup history: one game early in the year where the Sox put up eight on the young lefty. David Ortiz came up big, however, and he will not be available. With Daisuke opposite, it's questionable whether the Sox will be able to put up enough without him.