After a mixed opening to the season in Seattle, the Red Sox head to Oakland to continue an 11 game road trip. Here is what to watch out for in this second of three opening road series.
PITCHING MATCHUPS/SCHEDULE (TV)
4/1 David Price vs Aaron Brooks (R) 10:07pm NESN
4/2 Chris Sale vs Mike Fiers (R) 10:07pm NESN
4/3 Nathan Eovaldi vs Marco Estrada (R) 10:07pm NESN
4/4 Eduardo Rodriguez vs Brett Anderson (L) 3:07pm NESN
The biggest question mark in this series is going to be Chris Sale’s velocity. Thomas touched on it in his preview last week and his fears were somewhat realized. Sale’s fastball averaged 92.8 mph in Seattle on Opening Day. Last season he averaged below that just twice, the fourth game of the season (90.9) and the last (90.1). Last season on Opening Day his velocity was up at 94.9. If Sale’s velocity is low again in Oakland then serious question marks will start to be raised.
Due to the Opening Series in Japan, Mike Fiers and Marco Estrada will be making their third starts of the season. Fiers has struggled with a 5.00 ERA and a 5.71 FIP across nine innings. Estrada has fared better with a 2.45 ERA in his 11 innings. However, Estrada has managed just four strikeouts, compared to two home runs and has an alarming 5.49 FIP.
After a home run loaded Opening Series in Seattle, the Red Sox will not be pleased to see Khris Davis, who has already hit three home runs this season.
Eduardo Rodriguez will not be pleased to see a right-handed heavy Athletics lineup. He struck out just 24% of right-handed hitters he faced last season, and surrendered a 4.15 xFIP against them.
Expect to see J.D. Martinez have a strong series with three right-handed pitchers on the mound. In 2018, he had a 174 wRC+ against righties. Unusually for right-handed hitters, Martinez was stronger last season against righties than lefties.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Rotation: With the bullpen likely to remain a question mark until it has completely proven otherwise, a lot of pressure will fall on the rotation. Sale is obviously the biggest question mark but there are also questions surrounding Eovaldi and Rodriguez after their first starts.
Hitting Depth: There are no major worries around the hitters at this early stage. However, Nunez, Holt and Swihart had registered just one hit between them in the Sox first three games. With Dustin Pedroia on the injured list the Red Sox need their hitting depth to help them get off to a strong start.
Many people saw the Opening Series as a disadvantage to the Athletics and Mariners, due to the amount of travel. However, at this stage of the season it is actually an advantage. Those two teams had to ramp up their season preparation a week earlier than everyone else and are therefore slightly ahead of the rest of the league. Travelling to both of those teams in the first eight days of the season is a tough assignment for the Red Sox. The Sox also come into this game having gone 1-2 on the road in Oakland, and 2-4 overall against them last season.
A three series road trip to start the season is really tough for any team. The pros of it are that it gets some of the travelling out of the way early. However, the Red Sox would ideally want to come out of these first eight games around .500, meaning they will need to at least split this four game series in Oakland.