|FreePlays.com Home » Preview: Boston at Oakland, May 19th, 2017|
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Boston Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale will be in familiar territory when he tries to extend his streak of games with double-digit strikeouts to a major-league-record-tying eight on Friday night against the Oakland Athletics.
Sale already shares the record with former Boston star Pedro Martinez, having accomplished the feat in 2015 with the Chicago White Sox.
This year, Sale (4-2, 2.15 ERA) leads the majors with 85 strikeouts, failing to fan at least 10 only in the first of his eight starts. He is tied with Randy Johnson (1998, Houston Astros) for the most strikeouts in major league history by a pitcher in his first eight starts with a team.
"We're looking at one of the premier guys in baseball," Red Sox manager John Farrell said before Boston lost 8-3 to the A's on Thursday in the opener of a four-game series. "We're fortunate to watch it each time he walks to the mound.
"You love the competitiveness. The physical stuff speaks for itself, but I think his attack of hitters has rubbed off on other pitchers that we have on our staff. He's a leader in his own right. But again, you just love the competitive nature that comes out with a left-hander who's very uncomfortable to hit against."
The Red Sox acquired the five-time American League All-Star from the White Sox on Dec. 6, 2016, in exchange for four minor-leaguers.
Farrell had admired Sale's ability from afar but has a deeper appreciation for him now.
"Well, you never know about the person and how consistent a guy he is, how accountable and how much of a stand-up person he is," the manager said. "He's competitive in everything we do here, whether it's a ping-pong game in spring training to (pitchers' fielder practice)."
Sale is 5-2 with one save and a 2.60 ERA in 12 career games (seven starts) vs. Oakland.
A's catcher Josh Phegley has never faced Sale, but they were teammates with the White Sox for part of the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
"I caught him in Chicago," Phegley said. "He definitely has punch-out power. He's got some really nasty stuff. He's aggressive. He's not afraid of anybody. He gets after it in the strike zone. He's got a lot of nasty stuff. He trusts all his pitches. He's going to come right at you."
The A's will send right-hander Kendall Graveman to the mound for his eighth start of the season and fifth since coming off the disabled list after recovering from a strained shoulder in late April. He is 2-2 with a 3.95 ERA overall and 0-2 with a 5.48 ERA since coming off the DL.
Graveman is 0-0 with a 1.35 ERA in three career appearances against Boston, including two starts. In his lone start against the Red Sox last year, he allowed six hits over 6 1/3 shutout innings and had a no-decision in a 1-0 Oakland victory. He struck out seven and walked two.
"He's a bulldog on the mound," Phegley said of Graveman. "He's going to compete. I think he's right where he needs to be, and he gives us a good chance to win every time he's on the mind."
The A's will be without first baseman Yonder Alonso for the second straight game because of an injury to his left knee he sustained on Wednesday night at Seattle during an at-bat.
An MRI revealed no structural damage, and A's manager Bob Melvin said Alonso would take some swings in the batting cage Friday and might return to the lineup later in the series. Alonso is tied with left fielder Khris Davis for the team-lead in home runs (12) and leads the A's in RBIs (29).
Red Sox rookie outfielder Andrew Benintendi, who is in an 0-for-26 slump, is expected to return to the starting lineup after getting a night off Thursday.
Boston infielder/outfielder Chase d'Arnaud was designated for assignment before Thursday's game, making room on the 25-man roster for right-hander Hector Velazquez, who started and took the loos in his major league debut.
The Red Sox have an eight-man bullpen but just a three-man bench, minus d'Arnaud. Farrell said he needed an extra arm in his bullpen after a 13-inning win against St. Louis on Wednesday. He said he would stick with that plan until his bullpen gets some rest.
"That could be through the weekend," Farrell said. "We'll see where we go with a day to recoup and recover on Monday and possibly reset at that point."