By: Jack O’Keefe
The top-two teams in the American League embark on a three-game series starting this evening. The Red Sox come into the game Tuesday night winning three out of four against the Orioles. The Red Sox are catching fire, winners of five out of their last seven games. The A’s scuffled against Toronto in their last two games of the four game series, but they regained their footing, taking two out of three against Tampa Bay last weekend. Chris Bassitt gets the go for Oakland, and Nathan Eovaldi will oppose him for Boston. What can we expect in this Tuesday night matchup? Read below to find out!
Money Line: OAK +112, BOS -132
Run Line: OAK +1.5 (-186), BOS -1.5 (+155)
Total: 8.5 (O -108, U -113)
First Pitch: 6:10 PM CST, Fenway Park, Boston, MA
Oakland Athletics (21-15)
After allowing a combined 19 runs in the final 18 innings against Toronto, the starting pitching got things back in order once the Rays strolled into town. The A’s benefited from strong pitching to open the series, courtesy of Sean Manaea. Manaea had a no hitter going through seven innings, only to see it end in the eighth inning. The A’s went on to win the game by 2-1. The following day, Frankie Montas tossed 5.1 innings of solid baseball for Bob Melvin, as the A’s went on to take the series victory with a 6-3 win. The A’s were unable to complete the sweep on Sunday; however, the starting pitching was pretty sharp again. Cole Irvin went six innings and only allowed four runs (three of which were earned). Chris Bassitt will look to keep the strong pitch streak continuing today against the Red Sox. Bassitt went seven innings in his last outing against Toronto, allowing a mere two runs in that span. The two-run pitching performance streak has now reached five straight games for Bassitt. This will be Bassitt’s first time starting against Boston, so expect Boston hitters to be held in check, at least for the first turn through the order.
Matt Chapman continues to see the ball well as of late. The hot corner man is hitting .273 over the last week, along with a homerun and RBI in that span. His batting average on the season continues to creep up, as it now stands at .213. The other Matt, that being Matt Olson, is in a bit of a funk at the dish right now. He did have a poke in the game on Sunday, but he is hitting an abysmal .179 during the month of May with only one homerun and three RBIs. Seth Brown has been a nice stand-in role for the A’s in the Tampa Bay series. In his previous 11 games prior to the series against the Rays, Brown was 2-for-19 (.105). Against the Rays, Brown was 4-for-9 with two homeruns and five RBIs. Seth Brown sort of exemplifies the A’s offense as a whole this season. They will not always hit for the best average (team is batting .218 on the season; 26th in baseball), but they have an ability to jump-start their offense via the long ball (1.28 homeruns per game; 8th in baseball). It might not always be pretty to watch offensively, but if they score just enough runs to chalk up another tally in the win column, it makes it all the merrier. As the late great Al Davis famously put it, “Just win, baby”.
Boston Red Sox (22-14)
Most of the questions buzzing around Boston this off-season was how the Red Sox planned to address their pitching issues from last season. Their best starter last season, Nathan Eovaldi, owned a 3.72 ERA. Their closer, Matt Barnes, was 1-3 with a 4.30 ERA. While Barnes has improved some from this year to last, 2.00 ERA in 2021, most of the pitching has still been sub-par for Boston. So, the question then becomes, how on Earth does a team that has Nick Pivetta as their ace this season sit atop the standings in the AL East. Simply by outslugging the opponent, naturally.
The Red Sox are absolutely stacked offensively this season. The Red Sox lead the majors in team batting average (.264), hits per game (9.0) and doubles per game (2.22). The Red Sox are also in the top-5 with runs per game (2nd in baseball; 5.22) and RBIs per game (4th in baseball; 4.75). J.D. Martinez has been putting up MVP caliber numbers this year in Boston. Martinez is hitting a ridiculous .427 on the season with 10 homeruns and 31 RBIs already through just 36 games played. He is on pace to hit 45 homeruns and 140 RBIs this season. We know that those numbers are very unlikely to happen; however, I would not totally rule out the chances of perhaps 40 homeruns and 120 RBIs for the Boston slugger. Xander Bogaerts has also been a nightmare for opposing pitchers at the plate this season. The star shortstop is batting .348 on the season with 7 homeruns and 20 RBIs. Bogarets hit 33 bombs and drove in 117 RBIs in 2019, and it is safe to say he is on pace to put up similar numbers in 2021.
The Red Sox will most likely make moves this trade deadline to bolster their starting rotation and/or bullpen. Picking up a starting pitcher like Tyler Anderson from the Pirates or Kyle Gibson from the Rangers might be key moves to help Boston make a deep run in October. It will be interesting to see just how aggressive the Red Sox will be in July. Nathan Eovaldi is the starting pitcher tonight, and he will look to bounce back after giving up six runs over 4.1 innings pitched in his last outing against Detroit. Fortunately for Eovaldi, the Red Sox poured on 12 runs that day, which has now made it Red Sox victories in four out of the six starts behind Eovaldi this season.
Analysis and Prediction
Chris Bassitt will have his toughest draw yet during the two-run game run he has been on over the last few starts. The Red Sox are such a potent offense, and they have especially been strong on scoring early in games. The sample size is relatively small, but Boston has taken the lead in games after 3 innings in each of their last four games played at home this season. The Red Sox swept the A’s at Fenway when these two clashed back in 2019. While I do not expect the A’s to get swept, I do not expect them to come out on top for the first of the three in Bean Town. I will roll with the Red Sox ML (-132) as my best bet in this one.
Jack’s 2021 MLB picks: (10-10)