Two teams that started the second half of the season in opposite directions meet for a series in the Bay Area.
Boston Red Sox at Oakland Athletics
Boston has dropped nine of its last 12 games and have fallen 6.5 games back of the New York Yankees in the AL East race. The Red Sox offense sputtered in the first series back from the All-Star break, scoring just 11 runs in four home games against the AL West-leading Texas Rangers. The lineup still leads the majors in runs despite the recent slump, which has been caused by having four regular contributors on the disabled list. The Red Sox are 22-20 on the road this season and are in a stretch of playing 14 straight games against the AL West division, traveling to Seattle and Anaheim after this series. Boston is 9-5 against Western opponents so far in 2010.
Red Sox starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka is 6-3 with a 4.56 ERA in 12 starts this season, picking up his first victory since June 7 in his last outing. In that appearance, he held the Toronto Blue Jays to two runs on six hits in six innings of work in a 3-2 win at the Rogers Centre. The right-hander is 3-1 with a 4.57 ERA in seven road starts, but has issued 20 walks and allowed 40 hits in 41.1 frames. Matsuzaka will be making his seventh career starts versus the Athletics, going 3-1 with a 4.18 ERA, including an even 1-1 mark and 4.91 ERA in three outings at the Oakland Coliseum.
Oakland has won five straight games and now face a challenging schedule ahead with the Red Sox followed by the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox. “It’s good going into these next series since we’ve been playing well,” said manager Bob Geren. “They’re a little banged up, but they are still a great team.” The Athletics are still having trouble hitting the ball out of the yard, ranking last in home runs, as the team is on pace to hit just 101. The club pushed its daytime record to 21-10 on the season with yesterday’s victory, but now will have to solve problems with its 25-36 mark at night. Oakland has the second worst night record in the league behind only the Baltimore Orioles.
Athletics starting pitcher Ben Sheets is 4-8 with a 4.63 ERA in 19 starts and received 15 runs of support in his last outing. In a 15-1 home victory over the Angels, he tossed six shutout innings and allowed just two hits. The right-hander is 4-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 10 home outings compared to a winless 0-5 mark and 6.66 ERA in nine road starts. Sheets is an even 1-1 with a 2.03 ERA in two July starts, managing to issue just a single walk in 13.1 innings. He will be making just his second career start against the Red Sox, dropping a 6-4 contest at Fenway Park on June 2. He allowed four runs and seven hits over six frames while striking out just a single batter.
Bettors will acknowledge the Red Sox being 14-3 in Matsuzaka’s last 17 starts as a road favorite. The under is also 11-3-1 in his last 15 starts as a favorite away from Fenway Park. Oakland has won five of the last six meetings here in the Bay Area, but the team is a dismal 1-6 in Sheets’ last seven starts versus the AL East.