As the A’s get set to play a three game set on the road against the Boston Red Sox, the baseball world will be gazing longingly at Cleveland. Cleveland has come very close to tying Oakland’s record for most consecutive games won during the regular season, sitting at nineteen and needing just one more win to match the A’s. To see the glorious white elephant replaced atop the record books by a racist caricature of a group of people most entirely exterminated by the same types of folks who claim to be honoring them would be a travesty. But the A’s have been streaking recently, as well, winners of five straight including a four game sweep of the division leading Astros (who, thanks to the combined efforts of Oakland and Cleveland, no longer have the best record in the American League), and so technically there is still a chance for the A’s to rattle of a twenty-one game win streak (or more!) before this season is up.
- Houston: 86-57
- Anaheim: 73-70
- Texas: 72-71
- Seattle: 71-73
- Oakland: 63-80
Boston has been comfortably atop their division for most of this season, holding a semi-slim but comfortable lead over the New York Yankees, who themselves have the top Wild Card slot fairly secure. Despite underwhelming on offense for most of the year, the Red Sox have succeeded behind one of the most dominant pitching staffs in the game. The rotation is lead by the intimidating one-two punch in lefties Chris Sale and David Price, both of whom are perfectly capable of taking control of any game no matter how anemic the offense may be on any given night. Behind them is a large contingent of solid mid-rotation starters, including notable-dumb-chair-assaulter-and-hand-breaker-and-season-ruiner Drew Pomeranz, an unbroken Doug Fister, Cy-Young winner Rick Porcello, and more.
The Red Sox have an enviable mix of young, exciting, upstart players and useful veterans who can provide guidance and leadership to the incoming core. Mookie Betts, Andrew Benintendi, and Jackie Bradley, Jr. make for one of the best defensive outfields in the game, and as they take more and more licks at the big league level, it has the potential to grow into amongst the top offensive outfields in the game as well, with the perfect combination of pop and speed. Rafael Devers has slowed down since his sensation debut, but he remains a legitimate power threat and can make flyball-happy A’s pitchers throw fits. The team is currently missing the benefits of Dustin Pedroia due to an injury, but Eduardo Nunez has been able to produce in his absence, so the team wouldn’t miss too much of a beat.
Tuesday, September 12th at 4:10 - Sean Manaea vs Eduardo Rodriguez
Wednesday, September 13th at 4:10 - Jharel Cotton vs Doug Fister
Thursday, September 14th at 10:35 - Daniel Gossett vs Drew Pomeranz
How the A’s Win the Series
Fortunately for the A’s, the Red Sox are one of the least likely teams to take advantage of the horrid home run rates of the A’s starting pitching, though it isn’t like the batting order is filled top-to-bottom with a bunch of slouches either.
After a long stretch of really awful performances, it appears that Manaea has put his fatigue issues behind him and is pitching like the pitcher he was in the earliest months of the season, back when he faced the Red Sox in May and lasted five innings with three runs allowed. While his strikeout numbers are down and his walk rate up over his previous handful of starts, he is finally inducing weak contact again and finally looks like he’s getting stronger. Eduardo Rodriguez, opposing him, has had issues with consistently performing throughout his career, but has been strong of late and was strong against the A’s when he took them on in May, going eight innings and allowing three runs. Rodriguez also appears to be competing for a playoff slot in the rotation, and has more on the line in his starts than most of the rest of the rotation.
Doug Fister looked to be broken and soon-to-be out of baseball before the Red Sox came and patched him up and turned his career right back around. Jharel Cotton looked poised to emerge as a potential ace, or at least a number two or three starter before the start of the season, but every step forward he has taken has been followed by a couple of stumbling steps backwards, and needs to re-find the command on his beautiful changeup that made him so successful in his initial stint with Oakland. The Red Sox are the perfect lineup for him to be unafraid of the longball and challenge in order for him to divert some walks and keep more runners off of the basepaths.
The chair puncher with the equally punchable looking face is taking on Daniel Gossett in the final game of the series, meaning the A’s get to miss the two best pitchers on the Sox. Gossett has taken his fair share of lumps in his first season in the bigs, and has been lacking some of the legendary command that allowed him to skyrocket up through the A’s minor league system, but, like Cotton, he won’t have to worry all that much about nibbling in order to avoid the long ball against this team. Pomeranz looked decent in his previous start, but otherwise has been fading hard in the second half of the year. It would have been very useful if, earlier in his career, say 2014-ish, he had been able to last an entire season in order to better build up his endurance.
This series will be a challenge for the A’s offense, but also presents a good opportunity for the young pitching staff to see what they have against a team that has been held a playoff spot for the entire year.