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The Red Sox won their first series of the second half and stayed 2.5 games back of the Yankees in the East. However, the bats still have not woken up entirely and the pitching is still not as consistent as they had hoped it would be.
The A’s return to Boston, without Matt Holliday, for the second time in just three weeks for the last matchup between the clubs this season. The Red Sox took that series two games to one, leaving the season series tied 3-3, but without Holliday, the A’s are an even weaker offensive team than they were last week and the three prospects they received in the trade will not help them this season.
Josh Beckett (1-0, 6.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 4 K, 1 BB vs OAK in 2009) opens the series against Trevor Cahill (6-8, 4.50 ERA, 1.45 WHIP) in another opportunity for Beckett to be the stopper and get the series off on the right foot. Clay Buchholz makes his third start of the season as he continues to fill in for Tim Wakefield against Vin Mazzaro (2-7, 4.75, 1.58), who began his career with 18 scoreless innings, but has been rocked of late. Brad Penny (7-4, 4.71, 1.46 overall) takes on Brett Anderson (5-8, 4.32, 1.30), who shut out the Red Sox in the last series. Jon Lester (0-1, 6 ER, 10 H, 5 K, 0 BB) will face Gio Gonzalez (2-2, 7.75, 1.99) in the finale as he tries to redeem himself from his poor start early in the season out West.
Oakland also had gone with a closer by committee situation, but Andrew Bailey (11/15 SVs, 2.02 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 10.24 K/9) seems to have the hot seat to himself for the moment, with Brad Ziegler (6/7, 2.98, 1.39, 6.35) and Michael Wuertz (3/4, 3.23, 1.06, 11.79) figuring in the mix as well.
Oakland is one of the worst offensive teams in the bigs, near the bottom in runs, home runs, and dead last in extra base hits…and the numbers include Holliday, who had warmed up prior to the trade. Without him, they will really struggle to score runs and that puts additional pressure on Jason Giambi (.193, 11 HR, 40 RBI, 39 R) and Jack Cust (.234, 16, 50, 48), as the only viable power threats left.
If the Red Sox offense remains in a funk, the pressure may be lifted as they likely will not need to score seven runs per game to beat the A’s. The matchups really line up in favor of the Red Sox, with only Penny appearing to have a dogfight on his hands, so they should find a way to take three games and hopefully make up some ground on the Yankees.