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Open Thread: Game 50 - A's vs. Red Sox

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On the heels of an encouraging win over a red-hot team and looking to do something they haven't done in over two weeks - win a series - the A's will send Justin Duchscherer to the mound tonight against the team that originally selected him back in the 8th round of the 1996 draft. Although the Duke is coming off a less-than-stellar outing from last weekend, he has had a lot of previous success against the Sox while a reliever. In 20 1/3 innings pitched against the Sox in the last few seasons, Duke has a 1-0 record with a 2.66 ERA, 23 strikeouts and has only allowed 13 hits. Also going for the Duke is the fact that the last time he pitched at the Coliseum, back on May 6th against Baltimore, he threw an absolute gem, going 7 innings, throwing 56 of 85 pitches for strikes, and only allowing 2 runs on 4 hits while striking out 4. Ironically, that outing helped the A's clinch their last series win, so there is precedent here. Look for the Duke to put in a nice, efficient quality start and give the team a great chance to win the game and series this evening.

Opposing the Duke will be the Big Texan and "Big Game" pitcher Josh Beckett, who sports an un-imposing career stat line against the A's: in 4 games started, Josh sports a 2-2 record, with a 5.55 ERA and an 18-11 K-BB ratio in 24 innings total. While Beckett also has struggled a bit so far this season, with a 4.67 ERA, his peripheral stats indicate he's still dominating hitters: overall, he's struck out 56 in 54 innings and has also only walked 11 in that span, a fantastic ratio, while only allowing hitters a .234 average against him, all of which help him sustain a superb 1.09 WHiP. Beckett's Achilles' Hell so far this season has been the long ball, as he's already given up 9 homers in those 54 innings. Beckett's modus operandi so far this season has been to get first pitch strikes with his fastball and then work his other offerings into the mix to finish off hitters. For the patient A's this presents somewhat of a problem as many Athletics tend to take the first pitch as a rule of a thumb. Unfortunately, once Beckett gets that first strike he's been nearly impossible to hit as he's held betters to a .183/.203/.270 batting line after getting to an 0-1 count. So for the A's batters to be successful, they will need to take a page or two from the Emil Brown Book of Aggressive of Hitting and start hacking early in the count.

The A's have been heating up at the plate as of late and the team will likely hope that it's two hottest hitters, Jack Cust and Frank Thomas, can carry the load offensively for the time being to finally back up the superb pitching staff. Cumulatively since the middle of May, Cust and Thomas have combined to go 17 for 44 (.386 average) with a 9 to 11 BB-K ratio, 7 homers and 12 RBI's. If the two sluggers can keep this up, look for a) the A's to win a lot of games and b) for Thomas to solidify himself as the everyday DH, likely forcing the organization's hand in the Thomas/M Sweeney/Barton DH/1B logjam.


Lineup

Boston Red Sox @ Oakland Athletics

05/24/08 6:05 PM PDT

Boston Red Sox Oakland Athletics
Jacoby Ellsbury - LF Jack Hannahan - 3B
Dustin Pedroia - 2B Bobby Crosby - SS
David Ortiz - DH Jack Cust - LF
Kevin Youkilis - 1B Frank Thomas - DH
Mike Lowell - 3B Mike Sweeney - 1B
J.D. Drew - RF Ryan Sweeney - CF
Jason Varitek - C Emil Brown - RF
Coco Crisp - CF Mark Ellis - 2B
Alex Cora - SS Kurt Suzuki - C


Back to back Sweeneys in the 5-6 slots. Gotta love it! Let's..Go...Oakland!