By Matt Straub
The more things change the more they stay the same. The Red Sox still stink, but are still very much alive in the East. They have had the awful division to fall back on for a while, but now the deficit is 5.5 games against the Yankees. It's a manageable hole, but the Red Sox are slowly falling further behind, not getting closer.
If they're going to start a surge, a home series against the equally terrible A's would be a nice way to do it. Boston won two-of-three in Oakland in May, and anything short of a series win here would be a disaster. Team ownership has come out and said everyone's jobs are safe, and GM Ben Cherington says he likes the team (what's he going to say, he made it) but the buzzards are still circling and something has to change soon.
Let's look at how the Red Sox can end this week on a good note and try and turn the corner before summer starts.
Oakland Athletics (23-33, last place AL West)
at Boston Red Sox (24-31, last place AL East)
Friday, 7:10 p.m.
Scott Kazmir (2-3, 2.93) vs. Wade Miley (4-5, 4.97), 7:10 p.m
Saturday, 4:05 p.m.
Jesse Chavez (2-5, 2.11) vs. Joe Kelly (1-4, 5.83), 4:05 p.m.
Sunday, 1:35 p.m.
Kendall Graveman (3-2, 5.56) vs. Clay Buchholz (3-6, 3.82), 1:35 p.m.
Boston lost the last two home games against the Twins, splitting a series at home against a good team. In the big picture that's a good thing, but not when you win the first two of a four-game set. Then you're 2-0, 2-2 feels like a letdown, particularly at home. Oakland is actually on fire, taking three-of-four against the Yankees, then sweeping the Tigers. They have a long way to go, but winning seven out of 10 is a good way to start a climb. The Red Sox should look into it.
Three Red Sox Storylines
1. Everything is fine, says everyone, even though nothing is fine. Owner John Henry says he has condifence the team will turn it around and doesn't want to make any changes, nor does GM Ben Cherington. Of course, doing so would admit the team mad bad choices in the latest shopping spree.
2. Boston's latest problem is its defense. Pablo Sandoval is more mobile than he seems, but he has made some big errors lately. Hanley Ramirez can't be much longer for left field, but what do they do with him? He's DHing Friday, but David Ortiz isn't losing that spot for a while.
3. Alejandro de Aza is in left tonight. He was recently acquired because the Red Sox don't have enough outfielders as it is, and the ones they have aren't nearly as good as everyone thought coming into the year.
Three A's To Watch
1. Pat Venditte: Now the Red Sox can whiff against a guy who pitches with both hands. The A's called up the ambidextrious pitcher for this series. He could become the first player since Greg Harris in the 1990s to pitch with both hands in the same game. I've seen him pitch with Trenton in the Yankees system, and it's fun to watch. For those who are curious, he must declare which hand he is using before the batter does. He can change hands before every hitter, but not during the at-bat.
2. Stephen Vogt: The catcher is having an all-star type year, but is coming off an injury and may just come off the bench in this series. if he does, Boston will need to watch out.
3. Scott Kazmir: The lefty has the Red Sox already making moves in their lineup tonight. He throws hard from the left side, meaning no Ortiz or Sandoval tonight for the Red Sox.
An off day Monday comes before a trip to Baltimore.