May 04, 2014

The Athletics have a day off before their next series following Wednesday night's series finale at Fenway Park, and the Boston Red Sox probably wouldn't mind if Oakland's pitching staff stuck around to serve up batting practice Thursday.

After putting up 27 runs in the first two games, Boston might not need nearly as much help to finish off the sweep with a rejuvenated Rick Porcello taking the mound.

The Red Sox (20-13) came into this series leading the AL with 5.03 runs per game, and that average has taken a turn for the better after a pair of double-digit scoring efforts. Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a grand slam and drove in six in a 14-7 win in Monday's opener and Travis Shaw hit a three-run blast and knocked in five in an 13-5 victory Tuesday.

''Every at-bat everybody comes with something,'' said Hanley Ramirez, who belted a 468-foot homer among his three hits and walked. ''It's the whole team. ...What we're doing right now, we gotta keep doing it.''

They'll next hand the ball to Porcello (5-1, 2.95 ERA), who has made five consecutive quality starts and has a 5.13 strikeout-to-walk ratio that's among the 10 best in baseball. Opponents are hitting just .207 off him after he limited the New York Yankees to six hits and three runs over seven innings in a 3-2 loss Friday. That's a mere 80 points lower than the .287 average last season that was 77th out of 78 qualified starters.

Batters are hitting .111 so far against both the right-hander's changeup and curveball and .190 against his slider. Last season, those three pitches produced averages of .292, .225 and .357, respectively.

Porcello is 3-3 with a 3.12 ERA in nine games - eight starts - against the A's (14-20) since 2010, though he's only struck out 23 in 52 innings.

The Red Sox have to be salivating at the prospect of facing Eric Surkamp (0-2, 5.59), who made it through the fifth inning once in four April starts before being sent to Triple-A Nashville.

The left-hander, who has faced Boston twice in relief in his career, will likely head back to the Sounds after pitching Wednesday. Oakland needed an extra starter after playing a split doubleheader in Baltimore on Saturday.

The Red Sox have now won six straight against the A's and Ramirez is a big reason why. He's hit safely in each win, going 12 for 23 with two homers, six RBIs and nine runs scored.

"He's been pretty hot all year," Shaw told MLB's official website. "He's hitting over .300. Another bat in the middle of the order, another guy who can take it out of the ballpark at any single time, and on any single pitch."

The A's have hit .304 in their last six games but have just one win in that stretch and now have lost eight of nine.

Josh Reddick can't be blamed. He's 15 for 24 over the past six contests and is the only Athletic consistently producing, a title that extends to recent games against his former team. He's 13 for 30 with five walks in his last eight games against Boston.

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