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Red Sox-Athletics Preview

AP - Sports

Boston's prolific offense ran into some strong pitching in the Pacific Northwest, and arrives in Oakland struggling for runs.

The Red Sox could be in store for another tough test in Monday night's three-game series opener when the Athletics send Jarrod Parker to the mound.

After averaging 7.4 runs over a 10-game stretch, Boston (42-37) totaled nine runs in four contests with Seattle, but that was good enough to split a series with the AL's worst team. The Red Sox have won 11 of 15 overall to pull within one-half game of Baltimore for the AL's second wild-card spot.

"They were pitching pretty well,'' said David Ortiz, who hit the deciding sacrifice fly in the 10th inning of Sunday's 2-1 victory. "You have to pitch extremely well to stop our offense, and they did.''

Now the Red Sox, the majors' second-highest scoring team with 406 runs, have the difficult task of trying to get their offense going against Parker (4-3, 2.57 ERA), something they've already failed to do once this season.

Parker didn't get selected to the All-Star game, but the rookie right-hander certainly could make a case to pitch in the Midsummer Classic. After permitting one run and three hits while striking out a career-high nine in seven innings of Wednesday's 2-1 win over the Mariners, he joined Dwight Gooden as the only pitchers to allow one run or fewer in nine of their first 13 starts since 1918.

"That's a nice stat," manager Bob Melvin told the Athletics' official website. "It says he's got great stuff, and he can do it in whatever venue. It really doesn't matter to him. When he's throwing the ball over the plate and he's mixing his pitches, he's just a tough guy to square up. We're not even to the halfway point, but we're very pleased at what he's doing. Now did we expect him to be able to pitch games like this? Absolutely."

The Red Sox know to expect a strong showing from Parker, given that he limited to one run and four hits in 6 2-3 innings of a 5-3 victory at Fenway Park on May 1. Ortiz was hitless in three at-bats against Parker, but was 4 for 7 with two homers and two doubles in the other two games of that series.

Ortiz, who ranks among the AL leaders in homers (21), doubles (24), RBIs (54) and runs (57), will be Boston's lone representative at the All-Star game, marking the first time the club has had only one All-Star since 2001 (Manny Ramirez).

While the eight-time All-Star - who is sitting on 399 career home runs - could have trouble against Parker, simply hitting in Oakland also presents quite a challenge. Ortiz is batting .169 with two home runs and five RBIs in 17 road games in this series since 2008, and Boston has lost 10 of its last 14 in Oakland.

The A's (38-42) return home after beating AL West-leading Texas 3-1 on Sunday, salvaging the finale of a four-game set.

Yoenis Cespedes doubled to extend his hitting streak to six games, during which he is batting .409 with five RBIs, and he'll be getting his first look at Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-2, 4.91) in the series opener.

After recording a 6.06 ERA in his first three starts since returning from Tommy John surgery, Matsuzaka allowed one run over 5 2-3 innings of Boston's 5-1 comeback win over Toronto on Tuesday. The right-hander struck out five, walked one, scattered six hits and was done after 100 pitches.

Matsuzaka has typically fared well against the A's, going 4-1 with a 3.69 ERA in seven starts.

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