Red Sox-Athletics Preview

If a team is seeking an encore for a shutout, sending to the

mound a pitcher riding a 17-inning scoreless streak isn’t a bad way

to do it.

That’s just what the Oakland Athletics will do Wednesday

afternoon, when Gio Gonzalez tries to pitch them to a two-game

sweep of a Boston Red Sox club still seeking its first road

win.

Oakland’s .236 team batting average and 3.7 runs per game

wouldn’t normally be a recipe for victory, but the A’s are 9-8

thanks to a major league-leading 2.44 staff ERA. Two of their

starters – the same pair Boston (5-11) is facing in this series –

boast ERAs below two.

Oakland starters have allowed just one earned run over their

last five games – spanning 33 2-3 innings.

“It’s fun when we’re going good like that,” said Brett

Anderson, Tuesday’s starter and winner. “We want to feed off each

other and keep putting up zeros.”

Anderson limited the Red Sox to four singles and one walk over

eight innings of Oakland’s series-opening 5-0 victory, lowering his

ERA to 1.63. As impressive as that mark is, it’s more than triple

that of Gonzalez (2-0, 0.47 ERA), a 25-year-old left-hander who

finished with 15 wins and a 3.23 ERA last season but may now be

taking his game to a new level.

Gonzalez has thrown six shutout innings in each of his last two

starts to extend his scoreless streak to 17. Five days after

allowing four hits in a 1-0 win at Minnesota, he held Detroit to

two hits Thursday but received no run support in a game Oakland

eventually lost 3-0.

While he didn’t beat the Tigers, he still impressed Detroit

manager Jim Leyland.

“Their guy is really good,” Leyland told the A’s official

website. “He has a good, loose arm, a live fastball and a good

curve. I’ve seen him before, but that’s as good as I’ve seen

him.”

If Gonzalez has a weakness, it may be control. He walked six and

threw two wild pitches against the Tigers, and has issued 12 free

passes in 19 innings this season.

Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis is 4 for 8 against

Gonzalez.

Youkilis has been cold this April, though, batting .196 after an

0-for-4 effort with two strikeouts in the series opener. The Red

Sox appeared to be heating up after concluding a nine-game

homestand with three straight wins over Toronto, but suffered their

second consecutive 1-0 road loss Tuesday.

The Red Sox are 0-7 on the road for the first time in franchise

history, due largely to a .179 team batting average away from

Fenway Park.

“We’ll be all right,” second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “We

might be the first team to lose our first seven on the road and win

the next seven, who knows.”

They haven’t supported Wednesday’s starter Clay Buchholz (0-2,

6.60) very well, totaling five runs for him in his three starts.

However, Buchholz is still struggling to find the form he showed in

a breakthrough 2010 season, when he finished 17-7 with a 2.33

ERA.

The right-hander allowed only three hits over five innings

Friday, but walked five and yielded three runs while not earning a

decision in a 7-6 loss to the Blue Jays.

Two of Buchholz’s worst outings last season came at Oakland,

where he went 0-2 and gave up 10 runs in five innings.

A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki is 4 for 7 with a double off Buchholz,

while designated hitter Hideki Matsui is 6 for 14 with three

walks.