The Boston Red Sox will look to complete a season sweep of the visiting Oakland Athletics when the teams conclude a three-game series on Thursday afternoon.
Boston blitzed Oakland 10-1 on Wednesday, its fifth victory in as many meetings with the A’s and its 11th win in the past 13 games overall. Thursday’s contest will be the teams’ last matchup this season.
The Red Sox have homered in five straight games, hitting more than one in four of those contests.
“One thing we’re doing really well at the moment is we’re reading the pitcher. We’re seeing how the game goes and what the guy’s doing,” Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo told NESN. “We understood that (Oakland starter James Kaprielian) didn’t have the best command of his heater.”
Rafael Devers hit a two-run shot off Kaprielian, his fourth consecutive game with a home run. Verdugo later went deep against Domingo Acevedo, his first long ball since April 16.
A 13-hit Boston attack supported Josh Winckowski, a winner for the first time in his major league career. The rookie threw five shutout innings in his second start.
After Winckowski filled a rotation hole with Garrett Whitlock (hip) and Nathan Eovaldi (back) landing on the injured list in the past week, the Red Sox will turn to a usual starter on Thursday, Rich Hill (2-3, 4.38 ERA). The left-hander has 33 strikeouts and just seven walks over his past eight starts.
Hill’s latest two outings have resulted in Boston victories, though the 42-year-old took a no-decision on Friday in Seattle after striking out six in 4 1/3 innings of five-hit, two-run ball. On June 5, Hill held the A’s to one run on three hits in six-plus frames for a 5-2 victory.
“(He had) good fastball command, we mixed up a few cutters, too,” Boston manager Alex Cora said after Hill’s start in Oakland earlier this month. “The breaking ball played, he had them off balance, but I think it starts with fastballs, and he did an amazing job.”
Hill is 2-2 with a 2.67 ERA in nine career appearances (five starts) against Oakland.
Jarren Duran was added to Boston’s roster Wednesday after Christian Arroyo tested positive for COVID-19, forcing him out of the Tuesday lineup late. Duran, starting in center field and batting leadoff, went 0-for-4 with a walk and a run in the Wednesday night win.
Oakland is slated to start righty Paul Blackburn (5-2, 2.31 ERA) opposite Hill. He didn’t factor into the decision after a masterful start in Cleveland on Friday, when he shut out the Guardians over eight innings of four-hit ball.
The A’s lost a two-run lead in walk-off fashion in that game, which was their 10th consecutive defeat. They have now lost 13 of 14, including seven of eight on their current nine-game road trip.
“Times like this are tough on anybody,” Blackburn said of a skid that was snapped the following day. “We’re just trying to come in with a clear mind and taking that one-game-at-a-time mentality. It’s tough. But guys are coming in with a positive attitude every day. They’re working. Guys aren’t complaining. Sooner or later, the results are going to turn in our favor.”
Blackburn’s only previous start against Boston came on June 4, when he was charged with four runs and seven hits in four-plus innings during an eventual 8-0 loss.
Oakland third baseman Jonah Bride had his first two major league hits on Wednesday in his second game, but the A’s were held to one run or fewer for the 22nd time in their 64 games this season.
–Field Level Media