In the middle series of their last west coast road trip of 2012, the 62-70 Boston Red Sox will face several former Red Sox as they visit the 73-57 Oakland Athletics from August 31 to September 2. The Athletics enter the series owning the third best record in the American League and the lead for the first wild card spot.
The A's ride a impressive stretch of play into the series having won 12 of their last 14 games. They've held opponents to just 3.3 runs per game over that stretch and 3.7 per game for the year. Led by the hot bats of Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp, and Josh Donaldson, Oakland has a team slugging percentage of .475 over the last two weeks.
August 31: Aaron Cook (4.76 ERA, 11/12 K/BB) vs. Brandon McCarthy (3.12 ERA, 69/23 K/BB)
Injuries and trades keep opening spots in the Red Sox' rotation, and as a result Cook continues to get starts. Current members of the Athletics bat .365 with a 1.038 OPS against Cook through 96 at-bats. McCarthy has six quality starts in his last seven outings. He limits right-handed hitters to a .270 on-base percentage while lefties reach base at a .341 clip against him.
September 1: Felix Doubront (4.79 ERA, 126/54 K/BB) vs. Brett Anderson (0.64 ERA, 11/2 K/BB)
Barring a very early exit, Doubront's next start will push him beyond his professional career-high for innings in a single season. Currently at 127.2, the Red Sox should try to get him near the 150 inning mark in preparation for a potentially larger workload in 2013. Since returning from Tommy John surgery, Anderson dominated the Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians in his first two starts. He allowed just six hits, two walks, and one run in 14 innings.
September 2: Daisuke Matsuzaka (5.10 ERA, 26/10 K/BB) vs. Tommy Milone (3.73 ERA, 117/31 K/BB)
In his return from the disabled list on August 27, Matsuzaka shut down the Kansas City Royals, allowing just an unearned run over seven innings. Pitching through a neck injury in July, he lasted just one inning against the A's on July 2. Milone turned in one of his worst starts of the year against the Red Sox in April, but he will face a far different lineup this time around. His changeup has been his most effective pitch, leading to nearly identical platoon splits.
MLB Stats, ESPN.com
William Menna is a native New Englander and longtime Boston sports fan.
More from this contributor: