Series Preview - Athletics (21-41) @ Red Sox (32-29)
After going 3-0 in a West Coast road trip, the Boston Red Sox will be playing baseball at a reasonable time for the remainder of the year.
Tuesday, June 14th 7:10 PM - Jared Koenig (0-1 9.00 ERA) vs Nick Pivetta (5-5 3.78 ERA)
Wednesday, June 15th 7:10 PM - James Kaprielian (0-3 5.73 ERA) vs TBD
Thursday June 16th 1:35 PM - Paul Blackburn (5-2 2.31 ERA) vs TBD (probably Rich Hill)
Similar to the Red Sox, I was on a little west coast road trip of my own, out in Denver the past week for work. I got caught writing a series preview and was told that it was frowned upon to write about the Red Sox while sitting next to the CFO of your client, as he is the one paying an hourly rate for your time. Kinda bullshit IMO, but I had to go into a little bit of a hiatus. However, we're back, with no client travel in sight, which means I can go back to writing on their dime. When I left for the beautiful southern state of Colorado, the Red Sox were sitting at 24-27. Upon return, we are looking at a record of 32-29, with the best record in MLB over the last 25 games. That's pretty good! With that being said, we have also had Whitlock and Eovaldi head to the 15 game IL, which really throws a wrench into this being the best stretch I have seen from Red Sox starting pitching in literally forever. Next man up. Kutter Crawford made his return to the rotation and gave us 5 innings of 1-hit ball. We will likely need another AAA pitcher to step up until Whitlock comes back, and I think this A's team is the perfect test for a young arm. I'd like it to be Brayan Bello, but I really don't want to stunt his development by throwing him into the bigs, so we're probably going to get another look at Winckowski. Let's get into the predictions, god it feels good to be back.
Tuesday night, we are looking at Nick Pivetta versus Jared Koenig. Against the Angels, Nick Pivetta had a bump in what has been an unbelievable stretch that no one (except me) saw coming. The big difference is his curveball. It was getting crushed in the beginning of the season, but has recently been his best putout pitch. He allowed 4 ER over 5 innings in what was our first of 2 losses on the west coast against the Angels. This really doesn't concern me though, since his prior start was against the A's and he went 7, allowing no runs on 2 hits. Prettay prettayyy prettay good. Those results can be extrapolated to the rest of his appearances versus the A's. 46 batters faced, 4 walks, 4 hits allowed, 16 Ks. Pivetta has their number. They do have one home run, and that is Stephen Vogt in his only at bat against Pivetta. He is batting .148 this year though, so we can call that one an outlier. I expect him to shove, and give our bullpen a break before what will probably be a big Wednesday and Thursday for them.
Going up against the Red Sox is lefty Jared Koenig. He has no stats against our lineup, as he only has 1 start in his career. In that appearance against the Braves lineup, he allowed 4 earned on 5 hits in 4 innings. He also walked 2 and struck out 3. He is a curveball pitcher, coming in at 77-78, followed up with a sinker at 90, a cutter at 82-83, a changeup at 83, and a 4-seamer at 90. He was leaving his sinker up in the zone in his first appearance, and you know that our lineup can crush that pitch, but his curveball actually is very well located:
As is the case with any pitcher that throws mainly curveballs, when he can locate it, batters will struggle, but if he can't locate it he is going to get fucking walloped. We will know very quickly which we are getting. I like the Sox -1.5 on the back of a great Nick Pivetta start.
Moving onto Wednesday, we'll see James Kaprielian, a name that I do not enjoy typing! Kaprielian has struggled this year, allowing 24 runs in 37 innings pitched over 8 starts. He has given up 9 home runs and 13 walks while striking out 25 batters. Our lineup has 45 ABs against Kaprielian, allowing 9 hits, 3 of which are doubles, and one home run off the bat of Xander. Dugie is batting .600 in 5 ABs with 3 walks and 2 doubles. JD is 3 for 9, Xander is 1 of 6 (again, that 1 is a home run), and Raffy is actually 0 for 9. We faced him last week, and knocked him around quite a bit, putting up 4 runs on 5 hits in 5.1 IP. I have a feeling we will need to duplicate that effort, as we will likely have Josh Winckowski going in this game. I would like to give him run support early so he can settle in and pitch without much pressure. Kaprielian features his fastball 55% of the time at 94, followed up with a slider 23% of the time at 87, and a curve 12% of the time at 79. His fastball is decent, his slider is probably his best pitch, but his curveball STINKS. He leaves it right in the zone, and batters have a xSLG of .903 against it. I smell a Xander monster shot off the nationwide sign on a hanging curveball, and probably the over.
Lastly the A's will be trotting out Paul Blackburn, the best pitcher we will see this series. However, the Red Sox proved that means very little when coming up against this group. He could only get through 4 innings, giving up 4 earned on 7 hits. He went around our rotation twice, with Vaz, Story, and Raffy all picking up a hit off of him, and Verdugo picking up 2. The advanced numbers lend that to being a deviation from the norm, as he actually has some really solid looking figures. Barrel % in the 91st percentile, Average Exit Velo in the 76th percentile, and walk percentage in the 78th percentile. He doesn't really throw anything staggering, a fastball at 92, a curve at 79, and a cutter/change at 87 and 86 that he throws interchangeably. He mixes things up pretty damn well to keep batters on their toes. That curveball is his real put away pitch, but he can get batters out with really anything in his arsenal. His only weak spot that I can see is his cutter/change combo. Batters have 3 home runs off of those pitches, and a SLG of .633 and .571 respectively. He has much better control of the cutter than the changeup, so I think we see that pitch a little bit more in this start.
Although it still officially says TBD, Chris Cotillo says that Rich Hill is slated to get the start Thursday for the Sox. He has slightly worse numbers than Pivetta going up against this lineup, but that is a pretty much impossible bar to clear. 46 ABs, 9 hits, 3 doubles, and a home run. 10 Ks to 3 walks. Hill also pitched against the A's last week, allowing only 3 hits, 1 earned run, and striking out 5 while allowing 0 walks in 6 innings of work. The numbers, yet again, seem to be in the Sox favor this game. The lone home run comes off the bat of Sean Murphy, and old friend Jed Lowrie is 3 for 10 off of him. Other than that, this lineup isn't doing much against the old man. I expect this to be quite a low scoring affair, so I think the under is probably the best bet here.
Thanks for reading, C's in 7.