The 42-37 Boston Red Sox will wrap up their west coast road trip with a three-game series against the 38-42 Oakland Athletics from July 2 to 4. As they approach the midpoint of the season, the Red Sox have climbed into third place in the AL East, just a half game behind the Baltimore Orioles for second in the division and a wild card spot.
The Athletics own the best team ERA in the American League with a 3.53 mark, but they're also the lowest scoring team in the league with 3.75 runs per game. Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes are each slugging better than .500, but Oakland's infield has struggled to provide offense. The A's rank 13th out of 14 AL teams with a .302 on-base percentage and .365 slugging percentage.
Matsuzaka tossed his best start of the year against his toughest opposition when he held the Toronto Blue Jays to one run over 5.2 innings on June 26. In seven career starts against Oakland, he has a 3.69 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 39 innings. Parker is in the midst of an excellent rookie season. He has allowed two or fewer runs in ten of his 12 starts. No right-handed batter has homered against Parker in his 79.1 innings in the majors.
July 3: Jon Lester (4.53 ERA, 79/27 K/BB) vs. Bartolo Colon (4.22 ERA, 55/16 K/BB)
Lester pitched better than his ERA indicates in June, striking out 31 with only five walks and three home runs allowed in 33.2 innings. Colon is expected to return from the disabled list for the middle game of the series, making his first start since June 17. He does a great job of attacking the strike zone, but a high home run rate comes as a side effect. He allowed 12 homers in 89.2 innings before landing on the DL.
July 4: Franklin Morales (2.59 ERA, 44/11 K/BB) vs. A.J. Griffin (1.50 ERA, 8/3 K/BB)
With each start, Morales makes it increasingly clear that he belongs in Boston's starting rotation. Over his last five games, he has a 1.42 ERA with 31 strikeouts and just three walks in 25.1 innings. As Felix Doubront approaches his career-high for innings in a season, his spot in the rotation could belong to Morales at some point after the All-Star break. Griffin dominated at the AA and AAA levels before joining the A's in June. He posted a 2.66 ERA with 84 strikeouts and 14 walks in 94.2 innings in the minors before tossing a pair of quality starts in his first two MLB games.
MLB Statistics, ESPN.com
William Menna is a native New Englander and longtime Boston sports fan.
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