While the Red Sox (78-62) and A’s (69-70) face similarly daunting deficits in the playoff race, both may feel good about the future because of their strong young pitching.
Cahill (15-6, 2.72 ERA) is the biggest reason Oakland leads the AL with a 3.55 ERA. The 22-year-old sinkerballer has been especially sharp at home, going 9-2 with a 1.71 ERA.
He’s posted a 0.87 ERA while winning all four of his home starts since the beginning of August, overcoming a career-high six walks Saturday to work six shutout innings in a 3-1 win over Jered Weaver(notes) and Los Angeles.
“He got away with it because he has such tremendous movement on his fastball,” Oakland manager Bob Geren said. “When he gets in any kind of trouble, he can get out of it. His record is one of the best in the league on a team that’s right at .500. That’s quite an effort by him.”
Cahill’s ERA ranks third in the AL while Buchholz (15-6, 2.25) leads the league. Both pitchers’ Cy Young candidacies, however, may be hurt by lower inning totals after each spent time on the disabled list.
Buchholz struggled at Oakland on July 21 in his first start after recovering from a strained hamstring, allowing five runs in four innings of a 6-4 loss, but he has gone 5-1 with a 1.29 ERA in eight starts since. He held Chicago to two runs Saturday, although he needed 95 pitches to get through five innings in a 3-1 loss.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona considered starting the 26-year-old Buchholz on three days’ rest Wednesday against Tampa Bay, but he chose the cautious approach after Boston fell 14-5 on Tuesday and slipped 7 1/2 games behind the Rays for the wild card.
The Red Sox hit five homers in an 11-5 win Wednesday to cut the deficit to 6 1/2. Still, they’ve begun to give younger players a look in the lineup, and rookie Lars Anderson(notes) - a northern California native - had his first two major league hits Wednesday.
“Regardless of who plays, we’re going to try to win,” Francona told the Red Sox’s official website. “This isn’t Triple-A. I’m not crazy. We want to see some of the young guys play a little bit.”
Cahill may be happy to see a revamped Boston lineup that remains without Kevin Youkilis(notes), Dustin Pedroia(notes) and Jacoby Ellsbury(notes). He has gone 0-2 with an 8.71 ERA in two starts against the Red Sox, both last year.
Buchholz faces an Oakland offense that’s tied for last in the majors with 89 homers, but the A’s have averaged 5.0 runs while going 4-2 to begin their homestand. They beat Seattle 4-3 on Wednesday, getting three RBIs from former Red Sox outfielder Coco Crisp(notes).
Crisp also had one of Oakland’s four stolen bases. The A’s are third in the majors in that category, and they likely won’t hesitate to run against Boston, which has allowed an MLB-high 136 steals.
The teams have split six meetings this year after going 5-5 against each other in 2009, but the Red Sox have lost seven of their last nine at Oakland, including two of three July 19-21.