Athletics-Red Sox Preview

The Associated Press

The Oakland Athletics were the American League's best team in the first month of the season, and they did most of their damage on the road.

After sweeping Texas and an off day Thursday, they'll try to retain that title into May Friday night as they begin a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox, who have struggled this season at Fenway Park.

Oakland (18-10) is 12-4 on the road after outscoring the Rangers 25-4 in three games in Arlington. It hit .315 in the series with a season-high 17 hits in Wednesday's 12-1 victory.

"Do you expect to put that many runs on the board? Probably not," manager Bob Melvin told the team's official website. "When you're getting good at-bats across the board and making guys work, I've often used the analogy of a boxer getting body blow after body blow, to where you soften someone up, and that's what we do well. It doesn't always happen, but it did this time and against good pitching."

Leadoff hitter Coco Crisp set the table with a 5-for-13 series while catcher Derek Norris went 5 for 10 and is batting .591 during a seven-game hitting streak to boost his season average to .386.

Still, Melvin plans to continue platooning Norris with John Jaso, the latter getting most of the at-bats against right-handers, which means it'll likely be Jaso in the lineup against Boston's Clay Buchholz. Norris, though, is batting .407 against right-handers.

"He's been terrific, he really has, from the beginning of the season until now," said Melvin of Norris. "We do it a certain way here, but he's doing very well. The better you do, the more reps you end up getting."

It wouldn't be surprising to see the A's bats keep it up against Buchholz (1-2, 6.66 ERA), who is 2-2 with a 7.90 ERA and .342 opponents' batting average in six career starts against Oakland.

He also struggled through five April starts, though he earned his first win the last time out by holding Toronto to three runs on six hits in seven innings of Saturday's 7-6 victory. After allowing three first-inning runs, Buchholz retired 10 of the last 11 batters he faced.

"The first couple of innings were rough and then he really got in a good groove," teammate Will Middlebrooks said.

Oakland's Dan Straily also had an up-and-down first month. Straily (1-1, 5.14) allowed three runs on four hits in 6 1-3 innings of Saturday's 7-6 loss in Houston as he failed to record a decision for a third straight start. He surrendered two more homers and raised his season total to seven, among the most in baseball.

He's never faced Boston (13-16), though Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski is 3 for 8 with a home run and double against him.

After dropping both games of a doubleheader Thursday to Tampa Bay, the Red Sox are 6-10 at home, which is better than only Houston in the AL.

"I mean, we're not out here trying to lose," first baseman Mike Napoli told the team's official website. "Yeah, it's very disappointing. But it was a tough day, and we're going to have to regroup, get back out here tomorrow, get our game plan and get back after it again."

Boston lost 2-1 in Game 1 and 6-5 in Game 2 and stranded a total of 21 runners after drawing 17 walks.

The bullpen let the second game slip away as closer Koji Uehara surrendered a home run to Yunel Escobar in the ninth. After a strong start, Boston relievers have a 7.50 ERA in the last seven games.

Right fielder Shane Victorino went 2 for 4 with two doubles and an RBI in the second game to close out the three-game series at 6 for 12.

Oakland has won 11 of 14 against Boston.

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