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Series #7: Athletics vs Red Sox - A Real Test Ahead

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MLB: Boston Red Sox at Los Angeles Angels Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Red Sox Current Record: 16-2, won 7 straight games. 8-1 at home, 8-1 on the road

Possible Lineup:

RF- Mookie Betts

LF- Andrew Benintendi

1B- Hanley Ramirez

DH- J.D. Martinez

3B- Rafael Devers

2B- Eduardo Nunez

CF- Jackie Bradley Jr

C- Christian Vazquez

SS- Tzu-Wei Lin

Probable Starting Pitchers:

Drew Pomeranz

Chris Sale

David Price

Recent Bullpen Activity:

After shellacking the Angels, winning all three games between the top two teams in the American League, the Red Sox were able to spread out the usage of each of their relievers, and the entire bullpen should be fairly well rested. Only the sole left-hander, Brian Johnson, had an appearance with more than twenty-two pitches, but he last pitched on Tuesday and should be available Friday.

Hottest Hitter(s):

The Red Sox are getting above-average offense from every single position aside from catcher and center field. Leading the way is superstar Mookie Betts, with six home runs and a 1.277 OPS through the Red Sox first eighteen games, and new acquisition J.D. Martinez, who has four home runs and is just a shade under 1.000 OPS. The Sox have also gotten a lot of production from the shortstop position, as Xander Bogaerts is second on the team in offensive production, but is currently questionable to play due to an ankle injury. In Bogaerts’ place, Tzu-Wei Lin has an OBP of .474 with good pop.

Coldest Hitter(s):

After looking at how deep and relentless the offense is, it is ok to take some consolation in that the catcher position continues to look bleak in Boston. Christian Vazquez, based on performance, has earned himself the starting job behind the plate, but he is only OPS-ing .548 on the year. Blake Swihart is increasingly looking like a bust, appearing in six games but rarely getting any starts, and Sandy Leon struggles at the plate haven’t gone away either.

Hottest Pitcher(s):

David Price, Eckersely bully and inciter of clubhouse unrest, and Chris Sale, very-stable-throwback-uni-slicer-upper, have combined on the year to make eight starts, throwing forty-two innings and allowing just twenty-nine hits and just eight earned runs allowed. Rick Porcello, whom I have nothing against (yet), has been better than the both of them, and over four starts has a 0.87 WHIP and 1.40 ERA, to go along with twenty-three strikeouts in nearly twenty-six innings. Craig Kimbrel hasn’t given up a run in any of his eight appearances on the year in relief.

Coldest Pitcher(s):

Stupid-chair-puncher-who-cost-the-A’s-a-magical-2014 is making his first start of the year which will assuredly be terrible. The Boston bullpen, outside of Kimbrel, is average, and considering how good this team is, that in itself is a disappointment.

Key Injuries:

The aforementioned Drew Pomeranz has missed the entire season due to a forearm strain sustained during his first spring training start, but the rotation clearly hasn’t missed his presence. The starting middle infield, Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia, are also both currently sidelined by injuries, though the former is set to return soon.

* * *

The A’s are playing their best baseball right now, but so are their opponents, who have proven to be nearly unbeatable in 2018. The teams have the top-two OPS’s in all of baseball, and have been tearing the cover off of the ball of late. Fortunately for the A’s, the two best performing starters in the rotation will each be taking the mound this series, though unfortunately for the A’s, so will their worst-performing starter. The A’s offense will be put to its first real non-Shohei Ohtani test, as it is facing a starting rotation that has had the opposition quaking in their boots.

The Red Sox are on top of the food chain, and with an opponent like the A’s, are likely overconfident in their ability to continue their stretch of dominance. This series has the potential to teach fans a lot about the A’s and how they hold up against the league’s very best. It can also serve as a semi-preview to what it will be like in two to three years for Oakland, when Sean Manaea, AJ Puk, and Jesus Luzardo are all solidified in the A’s starting five, with a young and consistently improving offense behind them to run roughshod through the league.

Game #20: Friday, April 20, 7:05 - NBCSCA, NESN

Kendall Graveman vs Drew Pomeranz

Adhering to the old adage: if you have nothing nice to say about a pitcher, or pitchers, don’t say anything at all, we will be moving on.

Game #21: Saturday, April 21st, 6:05 - NBCSCA, NESN, MLBN

Sean Manaea vs Chris Sale

Two of the best left-handed starters in baseball will be toeing up on Saturday. Sean Manaea has found his success because he has been learning how to pitch despite the lack of life some of his offerings and discovering new strengths. Chris Sale found his success with extreme life on his offerings and relying on overpowering hitters, making him unafraid to challenge anyone. While both pitchers have had strong starts to the year, each will face their biggest test so far, in what can just as likely be a close, tense affair, or a blowout.

Game #22: Sunday, April 22nd, 1:05 - NBCSCA, NESN

Daniel Mengden vs David Price

With the A’s defense finally solidifying behind him, Mengden was finally able to have a start where his stats matched his performance. The A’s have never experienced a healthy Mengden at the start of the season before, and so it will be interesting to experience the bulldog at full strength, as well as how he holds up over the course of a full year to see how his arm and deception hold out over a long campaign. The A’s offense will have their second consecutive big test with David Price on the mound.