The Oakland Athletics are playing their best ball of the season on their current homestand, and outstanding starting pitching has been the biggest reason why.
Left-hander Joe Kennedy looks to give the A’s another stellar effort from their rotation and a third straight victory over the Boston Red Sox when the teams continue their four-game set Wednesday night.
Oakland (30-27) has won six of the first eight games of its 10-game homestand - the last two coming over Boston - to move a season-high three games above .500. The A’s had not been more than two games away from the .500 mark in either direction all year prior to Tuesday night’s 2-0 victory.
Former Red Sox left-hander Lenny DiNardo gave up just two hits while walking six over six innings Tuesday, as Boston (37-20) squandered a pair of bases-loaded opportunities and grounded into four double plays on the night. Athletics starters have a major league-leading 2.99 ERA, and they have been even better on this homestand, compiling a 5-1 record and 1.13 ERA.
Eric Chavez, whose 11th-inning homer gave the A’s a 5-4 win in Monday’s series opener, hit another solo shot Tuesday. The third baseman has four homers and seven RBIs during the homestand.
“Just the last week, I really got healthy,” said Chavez, who has struggled with a triceps injury. “Going through (the injury problems) I did last year, and then a different issue this year, at times I just wanted to give up. We’ve finally got this figured out, and I just hope it’s for the duration.”
Although he doesn’t have the wins to show for it, Kennedy (1-4, 3.30 ERA) has been another dominant member of Oakland’s rotation, especially at home. The southpaw has a 1.91 ERA in five starts at McAfee Coliseum, but is 0-1 in those outings as he has received only 2.5 average runs in support.
Kennedy turned in another strong effort Friday against Minnesota, allowing just one run over eight innings in a 3-2, 10-inning defeat.
He is 1-2 with a 4.59 ERA in 12 career appearances, including eight starts, versus the Red Sox.
Boston left fielder Manny Ramirez has always hit Kennedy well, going 9-for-21 (.429) with a homer and five doubles against him.
While Athletics starters have yielded only seven earned runs over the first eight games of their homestand, Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (5-6, 4.24) has surrendered more than triple that total - 23 - in his last four starts.
After posting a AL-leading 1.79 ERA through his first seven outings of 2007, Wakefield has struggled mightily since, going 1-3 with a 9.13 ERA and .318 opponent batting average.
On Friday night against the New York Yankees, the 40-year-old right-hander gave up a season-high eight runs in just 3 2-3 innings, yielding five hits in walking six in Boston’s 9-5 defeat. He threw 81 pitches in the shortest outing for a Red Sox starter this season.
“We’re into the fourth inning and I think he had already gotten over 80 pitches,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona on the team’s official Web site. “So that’s a good indication that something’s not going according to plan. A lot of deep counts, a lot of walks, some hit batsmen, some hits.”
Wakefield is 9-4 with a 4.03 ERA in 34 career games, including 23 starts, against the A’s. He has not lost to them since 2002.
The Red Sox own baseball’s best record and a nine-game lead over Toronto in the AL East, but have dropped three straight games for the first time this season and five of six.