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The Boston Red Sox in 904 more words: An Oakland A's series preview

The Athletics return to Fenway Park for three games against the Boston Red Sox. Here's our preview of the starting pitchers, hitters, and relievers.

The Red Sox have failed to win any of their last three series.
The Red Sox have failed to win any of their last three series.
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

When the Red Sox visited the Athletics at the Coliseum, Oakland was riding a five-game losing streak that started a 16-game span of going 2-14. Today, as the A's (23-33) visit Fenway Park, Boston (24-31) has now failed to win any of their last three series after splitting four games at home against the Twins, losing three of four to the Rangers, and getting swept by the Twins at Target Field. Despite their torpidity, the Red Sox are merely 5½ games behind first place in the moribund AL East.

With a sweep this weekend, the A's can pass the Red Sox on the American League table, and potentially move past the Seattle Mariners into fourth place in the AL West.

Starting pitchers

The Red Sox still have the American League's worst ERA (4.76), and they will have to put it up against the A's, with the AL's best (3.10).

Friday vs. LHP Wade Miley
Friday (4:10 PM PDT)
Scott Kazmir vs. Wade Miley
2.93 ERA 4.97
3.89 FIP 3.72
3.75 xFIP 4.75
23.2% K% 13.9%
1.48 GB/FB 1.22

Just over three weeks ago, Wade Miley's ERA was sitting at 6.91, a slight improvement over his 8.62 in April, but still not great. Now, after going three-for-his-last-four in quality starts with a 2.81 ERA in that span, he has a 4.97 ERA on the year. The left-hander has not given up a home run since May 8 despite playing two of those games in Fenway Park, where right-handed batters have a huge advantage to lefties (102 HR park factor for RHB, 90 for LHB).

Against the Athletics on May 13, Miley held Oakland scoreless despite striking out just one batter and walking four over 6⅔ innings. This was the game in which the A's infamously went 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

Saturday vs. RHP Joe Kelly

Check back soon for a report on Joe Kelly.

Sunday vs. RHP Clay Buchholz

Check back soon for a report on Clay Buchholz.

At the plate and in the field

A's AL Ranks Red Sox
7th (4.29) RS/G 13th (3.75)
5th (103) wRC+ 14th (89)
11th (48) HR 9th (52)
4th (.256) AVG 12th (.242)
6th (.319) OBP 7th (.313)
10th (.391) SLG 14th (.370)
11th (.135) ISO 14th (.128)
5th (32) SB 10th (24)
15th (54) Errors 11th (35)
5th (8) DRS 12th (-14)
15th (-9.3) UZR/150 8th (-3.6)
4th (.721) DE 11th (.709)

I'm going to have write an article pretty soon about why Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating disagree so sharply about the Athletics defense. Maybe when I'm not buried in Pat Venditte #content.

So get this, since the start of the series against the A's just over three weeks ago, the Red Sox have gone from scoring 4.35 runs a game to 3.75 to fall from 9th to 13th in scoring. The Red Sox have scored two or fewer runs in 12 of the last 23 games. The Red Sox are only 14-10 when their starters throw quality starts this season, according to this Community FanGraphs research peace by Tani Levitt, though they are playing exactly in line with what their BaseRuns record suggests.

Since Oakland last played Boston on May 13, Daniel Nava and Shane Victorino were both put on the disabled list. The Red Sox acquired outfielder Alejandro De Aza from the Baltimore Orioles to help. The left-hander has a 72 wRC+ this year in 112 plate appearances, and a 95 wRC+ against right-handed pitching.

Sogard Line: The Eric Sogard Line is Sogard's wRC+, representing my gut feel for what represents serviceable offensive production for a bottom of the order hitter with a good glove, but you probably don't want more than one or two of those in your lineup. Sogard moved his wRC+ from 66 to 64 after going 2-for-11 with one strikeout and one walk in three games against the Detroit Tigers. The Red Sox have given 13.0% (271 of 2,089) of non-pitcher plate appearances to batters hitting at or below the Sogard Line.

Bullpen

A's AL Ranks Red Sox
9th (161.0) IP 4th (171.1)
15th (4.86) ERA 10th (3.68)
13th (4.18) FIP 15th (4.40)
11th (4.16) xFIP 14th (4.31)

Boston's bullpen continues to see quite a lot of usage, ranking fourth in innings pitched in the American League. The ERA has improved since our last meeting, from 13th to 10th.

Says Over the Monster's Joon Lee, "There's not really a long man right now because they've gone with a six-man rotation the last two turns. Everyone's basically been mediocre the whole year."

2015 Stats Recent usage (pitch count from www.rosterresource.com)
Player Hand IP ERA K% GB% FB% 4-Jun
3-Jun
Gm 2
3-Jun
Gm 1
2-Jun 1-Jun 31-May 30-May
Koji Uehara R 17.0 2.65 27.5% 35.7% 52.4% 22 18 14
Junichi Tazawa R 24.0 1.50 26.4% 41.0% 39.3% 21 14 12
Alexi Ogando R 21.2 4.15 18.2% 43.9% 36.4% 36 P 9
Tommy Layne L 16.1 2.76 22.1% 58.1% 25.6% 18 P 11
Craig Breslow L 22.1 4.03 18.0% 30.4% 56.5% 15 D
Matt Barnes R 13.2 1.98 17.2% 33.3% 43.8% 1 11

The games

Watch out for the game times, as they move around all week:

Time (PT) Probable starters TV
Friday 4:10 PM Scott Kazmir vs. Wade Miley CSNCA
Saturday 1:05 PM Jesse Chavez vs. Joe Kelly CSNCA
Sunday 10:35 AM Kendall Graveman vs. Clay Buchholz CSNCA