Not only were the Kansas City Royals able to gain a split of a four-game series over the weekend, but the Oakland Athletics now come to town on an absolute roll.
The A's have won eight of 10, holding their opponents to one run or less six times, including a 4-1 win at Detroit on Memorial Day. The surge has made Oakland an unlikely first-place team in the American League West.
Behind a pair of strong pitching performances by Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester, Boston was able to finish its four-game set on a good note. The Sox will look for a third straight win behind John Lackey when the series kicks off Tuesday night.
The Athletics give the ball to young lefty Gio Gonzalez.
WHEN AND WHERE
HEAD TO HEAD
The Sox are 10-4 at home against the A's over the last three years.
LHP Gio Gonzalez (5-3, 3.54 ERA) vs. RHP John Lackey (5-3, 4.84 ERA)
As he said he would, Lackey appeared to right the ship in his last time out after three straight rocky trips to the mound.
In 6 1/3 innings against the potent Tampa Bay Rays, Lackey allowed two runs on eight hits. He did walk four, however, continuing a month-long trend of high walk totals. Lackey walked 18 and struck out 18 in May, during which his ERA was 5.17.
Having played his entire career before 2010 with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Lackey has seen the A's plenty of times over the years and he has almost always enjoyed the sight. In 29 career starts against Oakland, Lackey is a dominant 16-4 with a 2.76 ERA.
Gonzalez, just 24, is beginning to come into his own, staking his claim in a young, talented staff reminiscent of the A's teams of nearly a decade ago which boasted a youthful trio of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito.
Two starts ago, Gonzalez threw eight shutout innings against San Francisco. Five days ago he allowed three runs in 6 1/3 innings to help Oakland top Baltimore.
The lefty has faced the Sox just once in his career, giving up three runs and fanning eight in 5 1/3 innings.
Rajai Davis, CF
Daric Barton, 1B
Ryan Sweeney, RF
Kurt Suzuki, C
Jack Cust, DH
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B
Gabe Gross, LF
Mark Ellis, 2B
Cliff Pennington, SS
Marco Scutaro, SS
- Catcher Jason Varitek has seven home runs in 70 plate appearances this season. He didn't reach that total last year until his 126th plate appearance. Varitek needs 10 RBIs to surpass Mike Greenwell and move into 13th place on the team's all-time list.
- Designated hitter David Ortiz's 10 home runs in May were his most in any month since August 2006, when he also had 10. He is tied with Mo Vaughn and Shawn Green for 93rd in Major League history with 328 career long balls.
- Boston's 42 home runs in May are the club's most in a month since it struck 47 in 1996.
- Oakland has allowed 15 earned runs over the last eight games.
- First baseman Daric Barton has eight sacrifice hits this season, already the most by an Athletic before the All-Star break since Mark Ellis had nine in 2003.
- The A's are 22-0 when leading after the seventh.
BLACK AND BLUE
- Jacoby Ellsbury returned to the disabled list Friday with rib cage soreness. The move was retroactive to May 25.
- Josh Beckett had his rehab from a back injury slowed after a bullpen session did not go well Friday. He will not resume throwing until he feels 100 percent.
- Right-hander Boof Bonser recovered from an extremely rocky outing on May 22 to throw six shutout innings against Norfolk in his latest rehab start at Triple-A Pawtucket. Bonser has been on the DL with a right groin injury since the end of spring training.
- Infielder Jed Lowrie continues to try to work back from mononucleosis. He took batting practice and fielded grounders at Fenway last week.
- Left-hander Brett Anderson returned from the DL on Saturday and threw 5 2/3 shutout innings in his first start in over a month.
- Outfielder Coco Crisp was placed on the DL on May 23 with a ribcage strain. He had played just two games after beginning the season sidelined with a broken finger.
- Designated hitter Eric Chavez is on the DL with a bulging disk in his neck. He has hinted at retirement after the latest in a long line of injuries for the former All-Star.
- Right-hander Justin Duchscherer will have season-ending surgery on his left hip. He attempted to rehab the injury in mid-May but was unable to return.
- Outfielder Travis Buck is hoping to begin playing in extended spring training games soon as he works back from a strained right oblique.
This series pits a pair of teams which have achieved a measure of success through wildly different means.
The Sox' offense averages over a run more than the Athletics', yet it will throw three pitchers at Oakland with a collective 5.35 ERA.
The A's, who score more than a run less than the Sox, will feature three arms who are a combined 9-7 with a 3.79 ERA, giving the Boston bats a bit of a battle before the club heads back out onto the road for seven games.