Oakland’s Dan Haren has emerged as one of the American League’s dominant pitchers, but he’s had the benefit of facing relatively weak competition. That won’t be the case Monday night.
Haren will see how he fares against the team with the best record in baseball when the Athletics (28-27) open a four-game series against the Boston Red Sox at McAfee Coliseum.
Haren (6-2, 1.64 ERA) has the lowest ERA of any starter in the majors, and has won his last three starts and six decisions. On Wednesday, he allowed one run and four hits over eight innings of a 6-1 victory over the Texas Rangers.
Opponents are hitting just .180 against the right-hander.
“You get him a few runs and you’re definitely feeling pretty good,” catcher Jason Kendall told the Athletics’ official Web site. “I know it sounds cheesy, but Dan’s ‘The Man’ right now.”
The quality of Haren’s competition, however, has been questionable. Of the eight opponents he’s faced this season, five currently have losing records. Five of his last seven outings have come against the AL’s three last-place clubs - Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Texas.
Besides owning the best record in baseball, the Red Sox (37-18) are batting .281 - third-best in the majors.
Boston lost two of three games against the New York Yankees over the weekend, though, dropping Sunday’s finale 6-5. The Red Sox, who have a 10 1/2 game lead over the second-place Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East, scored all five runs in the fifth to take a one-run lead, but New York tied the game in the eighth.
“Next time I’ve got to get him to chase a pitch outside the (strike) zone,” Papelbon said.
Tavarez last pitched May 27 against the Texas Rangers, allowing four runs in 5 2-3 innings and not receiving a decision in Boston’s 6-5 victory.
The right-hander had won his previous two starts, allowing a combined three runs over 12 2-3 innings.
Tavarez has never faced Oakland as a starter. In 20 relief appearances versus the A’s he is 1-1 with a 4.85 ERA.
The Athletics are looking for their first three-game winning streak since a four-game run April 15-20. Oakland took two of three from the Minnesota Twins over the weekend, including a 4-2 victory over reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana on Sunday.
“Beating somebody like Santana is quite a chore,” A’s manager Bob Geren said. “Congratulations to the offense for getting some runs off him.”
Boston and Oakland split a two-game set at Fenway in early May. The Athletics won four of six home meetings with the Red Sox last season.