Stephen Vogt is hitting .321/.424/.786 with four home runs this month. (Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Red Sox-Athletics series preview

May 11, 2015 - 6:46 am
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Sporting identical 3-7 records in their last 10 games, the Red Sox and Athletics are set to start a three-game series in Oakland to begin the week. The Sox picked up a win in Sunday's Mother's Day matinee against the Blue Jays, avoiding their second sweep in three series. Oakland is in a similar situation, winning just three games this month and riding a five-game losing streak and most recently, a sweep at the hands of the Mariners. The A's are a little worse off than Boston overall this season, as they own a 12-21 record and sit in last place of not only their division but the whole American League in winning percentage (.364). Regardless, Oakland manager Bob Melvin said his team is better than its record and that the Athletics will start winning as they return home for the upcoming stint at O.co Coliseum. "We're in every game," Melvin said after Sunday's loss. "It's small little things that are going to make the difference for us. And we're going to start winning when we get home. "It's never about the effort," Melvin added. "The effort's always there. It's about some of the other things that we need to tighten up. We walk too many people at times. Defensively, we're Jekyll and Hyde." The A's have the worst fielding percentage in the majors, ringing in at 97.3 percent, and have committed the most errors of any team at 33. In turn, the Sox are top 10 with a .986 percentage and 22nd for errors with 17. Because of that, Oakland has given up 20 unearned runs, second only to the Nationals (25). Despite its poor defense and record, Oakland features a productive offense. The A's are tied for fourth in the league in runs scored with 153 and are second among all 30 teams with 301 hits. As a team, they are hitting .258/.315/.397 with a fifth-best 146 RBIs and a top-10-worthy 93 extra-base hits. The problem for the A's is that they have lost 10 of their 11 one-run games this season. If they were able to even pull out wins in half of those 10 games, they would at least be 17-16, good for second in their division. And while Oakland has allowed the sixth-most earned runs in the league, its pitching staff is keeping batters slashing .238/.312/.369, though they have issued a fifth-worst 108 walks, tied with Boston. In addition, only the Brewers, Red Sox and Rockies have given up more total runs. The rotation is sixth best in the majors for WHIP with 1.21 and has put in 193 2/3 innings for its team, sixth best, and in those innings the starters have opposing batters slashing .235/.302/.344. The relievers, on the other hand, have batters posting a .245/.330/.417 slash line and have recorded a 1.40 WHIP, sixth worst. Here are the pitching matchups for the series: Rick Porcello (3-2, 4.38 ERA) vs. Scott Kazmir (2-1, 2.75 ERA) Justin Masterson (2-1, 5.18 ERA) vs. Drew Pomeranz (1-3, 5.12 ERA) Wade Miley (1-4, 6.91 ERA) vs. Sonny Gray (4-0, 1.65 ERA) WHO'S HOT: RED SOX -- In his last six games, Mookie Betts has collected eight hits in 25 at-bats, six of which have gone for extra bases. The center fielder is hitting .320/.370/.840 in that time with two doubles, a triple, three home runs, three RBIs and two walks. -- Slated to take the mound on Monday evening to open the series, Rick Porcello impressed in his most recent start against the Rays on Tuesday, hurling seven full innings with no earned runs allowed. Porcello gave up eight hits and fanned six in his outing, posting a 1.14 WHIP. -- Junichi Tazawa has appeared in three games over the last week, surrendering zero earned runs and holding batters to a .182/.357/.182 slash line in 3 1/3 innings pitched. Tazawa has walked three in that time, but he was able to maneuver his way out of it in each instance. He also currently has a staff-best ERA of 1.80 through 15 innings of work. WHO'S HOT: A'S -- Marcus Semien is 11 for his last 25 through the past seven games with a .440 batting average. The 24-year-old shortstop has two home runs, two RBIs, two walks, five strikeouts and two stolen bases to go along with that favorable average. -- The No. 1 pitcher on the A's depth chart, Sonny Gray, hurled six innings of one-run ball in his most recent start on Saturday when Oakland took on the Mariners. The outing marked the fourth consecutive one for Gray in which he has allowed two or fewer earned runs, lowering his season ERA to 1.65. Gray has batters slashing .194/.266/.234 against him, and he owns a clean 1.00 WHIP on the year with 44 strikeouts through 49 innings. -- In the month of May, Stephen Vogt has 11 RBIs on nine hits, four of which were home runs. He has seven strikeouts this month but has walked five times with a .321/.424/.786 slash line in 28 at-bats. WHO'S NOT: RED SOX -- Though he's not scheduled to make an appearance when the Sox are in Oakland, Joe Kelly has had some trouble on the hill in each of his last four starts. Dating back to April 22 against the Rays, Kelly has allowed at least five earned runs in all of his subsequent outings. In 21 1/3 innings pitched, the righty walked 11, struck out 23 and gave up 21 earned runs on 26 hits. He has an ERA of 8.86 during that span with a 1-3 record. -- Mike Napoli made some noise in Sunday's win over the Blue Jays in the form of a three-run home run, but he is batting just .172 on the year. The first baseman has four hits in his last 21 at-bats. His .190/.292/.381 slash line in that time shows the effects of his six strikeouts and three walks, but he has taken the second-most pitches (108) of anyone on the team through those at-bats. -- Xander Bogaerts is still looking to find consistency at the plate, batting .194/.242/.323 so far this month. He has six hits in 31 at-bats with two doubles, a triple, one RBI, two walks and six strikeouts. WHO'S NOT: A'S -- Former Sox outfielder Josh Reddick has just nine hits in 38 at-bats this May, though he's been able to tally 10 RBIs thanks to two doubles and three home runs. Reddick has crossed the plate himself seven times in that period and drawn six walks, striking out a half-dozen times as well for a .237/.341/.526 slash line. In his last seven games alone, Reddick is batting just .115 (3-for-26). -- Scott Kazmir, who will face the Sox on Monday, has given up nine earned runs over his last 12 innings on the mound. Kazmir started the year with four straight outings allowing two or fewer earned runs, holding a 0.99 ERA. Since the beginning of May, the southpaw has a 6.75 ERA in two starts with four home runs, one hit batter, three walks and 10 strikeouts. -- Billy Butler is 7-for-30 in his last seven games. He has a .233/.258/.267 slash line in that stretch with five strikeouts and just one extra-base hit, a double. Still, he has managed four RBIs, a walk and three runs of his own. His May slash line is a worse .179/.200/.205 with just the one extra-base hit and eight K's.