ATHLETICS (14-18) AT RED SOX (13-17)
1:05 p.m. ET; NESN, NBCSCA, MLB.TV
The Boston Red Sox are starting to show signs of the team that ran roughshod over the league last season.
Fresh off a pair of resounding victories, the host Red Sox bid to record their second series sweep of the season on Wednesday afternoon against the reeling Athletics. Boston topped Oakland 9-4 and 5-1 on Tuesday.
Mookie Betts, who belted a solo homer in the first inning of Boston’s romp on Tuesday, has five multi-hit performances in his past six games. Taken a step further, the 2018 American League Most Valuable Player has 19 hits — including eight for extra bases (five doubles, three homers) — and eight RBIs in his last 11 contests.
“He made some adjustments, he’s been in the cage working hard. He’s staying in the zone, and putting good swings on it,” Boston manager Alex Cora told reporters of Betts, who joined Ted Williams, Johnny Pesky and Nomar Garciaparra as the franchise’s lone players to score 500 runs in their first 700 games.
“Hitting the ball out of the ball park (to) straight center, that’s a perfect swing right there, and he’s always looking for that,” Cora added.
Rookie Michael Chavis has collected eight RBIs and seven runs scored in his last seven games for the Red Sox, who are looking for their first sweep since a three-game set at Tampa Bay on April 19-21.
Boston right-hander Hector Velazquez (0-2, 3.86 ERA) will make his fourth start of the season on Wednesday after being elevated into the rotation following an injury to Nathan Eovaldi.
Velazquez, who walked a pair of batters and gave up a hit while recording one out in a relief outing against Oakland on Monday, owns a 1-1 mark with a 5.91 ERA in four career encounters with the Athletics, including one start. The 30-year-old has seen Oakland’s current roster bat .303 against him, with Khris Davis going 2-for-4 with a homer.
After a brilliant performance by Rick Porcello on Tuesday, Cora told reporters to reserve judgment on the status of the team’s pitching staff.
“It was just a bad start (to the season) for everybody. People can point at spring training or whatever. I don’t think that’s the thing,” Cora said. “Judge over 162 games and see what happens. They did struggle early. Now they’re finding their rhythm, and we’ll see where it takes us.”
Oakland finds itself in a freefall, losing the first five contests of its nine-game road trip to fall to 4-10 away from home.
Matt Chapman, however, is keeping a positive outlook.
“April’s behind us,” the third baseman told reporters Tuesday. “Don’t let the A’s get to May. Tomorrow is May 1 and we can turn over a new leaf.”
Right-hander Mike Fiers (2-2, 7.03) will look to return Oakland to its winning ways.
Fiers answered a trio of six-run outings with a significantly before performance on Friday. The 33-year-old Fiers gave up two runs on six hits with five strikeouts and no walks in a season-high seven innings of a no-decision at Toronto.
Fiers improved to 3-0 with a 1.57 ERA in five career appearances (four starts) versus Boston after tossing six scoreless innings on April 2. J.D. Martinez, however, is 8-for-17 with two solo homers against him.
–Field Level Media