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Back home, sizzling Red Sox take aim at A’s

Jun 11, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA;  Boston Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers (11) is greeted by second baseman Trevor Story (10) after a two run home run by Devers against the Seattle Mariners during the first inning at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Lindsey Wasson-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Lindsey Wasson-USA TODAY Sports

Following a 10-game road trip to remember, the Boston Red Sox return home to begin a three-game series against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night.

The Red Sox won eight games on a West Coast trip for the first time since 1995, capping the 8-2 swing by taking two out of three from Seattle. Their 18-7 record since May 18 is MLB’s best.

On Sunday, a Rafael Devers two-run home run in the eighth inning was all the offense Boston needed for a 2-0 win over the Mariners. The star third baseman’s 14th homer of the season came on a high fastball outside the strike zone.

“You cannot take away his aggressiveness. And he can do that with bad pitches,” Boston manager Alex Cora said of Devers, who leads the majors in hits (83) and extra-base hits (38). “Two-strike approach, he went the other way. Us humans, we hit line drives the other way. He hits homers the other way with two strikes.”

After Nathan Eovaldi was placed on the injured list with low back inflammation, Kutter Crawford stepped up and pitched five shutout, one-hit innings with seven strikeouts and four walks in only his second career MLB start.

“(Crawford’s) stuff was really good,” Cora said. “He made some good pitches on two strikes. He was under control, throwing hard.”

With Boston’s pitching plans still to be determined for multiple games this week, Crawford could make another start before Eovaldi is eligible to return.

Tuesday’s start will go to Nick Pivetta (5-5, 3.78 ERA) who is 5-1 with a 1.96 ERA over his past seven starts. He had a streak of five consecutive winning starts snapped in Thursday’s 5-2 setback to the Los Angeles Angels, though he struck out a season-high 11 in five innings.

“I think it came down to the two walks to lead off the sixth inning, that kind of screwed everything up,” Pivetta said. “Uncompetitive. Not good.”

Pivetta has pitched seven shutout innings in each of his two career starts against Oakland, both of which have come within the past two seasons. He struck out seven and allowed just two hits during Boston’s 8-0 win on June 4, which was the second game of the recently completed trip.

On the opposite side for Oakland will be Jared Koenig (0-1, 9.00), a left-hander who allowed four earned runs in four innings while making his MLB debut last Wednesday in Atlanta in a 13-2 loss. He had previously pitched two seasons in the A’s system and three in independent leagues.

“You see the competitiveness, you know he’s a grinder,” A’s manager Mark Kotsay said. “That’s another thing you can take away from him being on the mound, he didn’t shy away from it and made some pitches when he needed to. But, ultimately, (the Braves) lineup did a great job of seeing pitches and getting to him once they had been through the lineup.”

The A’s snapped a 10-game skid with Saturday’s 10-5 win in Cleveland, but they were unable to continue the positive trend and dropped a 6-3 decision to the Guardians to conclude the four-game series.

Ramon Laureano’s first-inning homer gave Oakland a 1-0 lead before the Guardians used big innings to build a 6-1 advantage at the end of seven innings. Christian Bethancourt and Seth Brown hit back-to-back homers in the eighth, but the Athletics didn’t score again.

Bethancourt went 9-for-17 during the series, hitting three of his four homers on the season.

“I think guys are getting more confident, taking better at-bats,” Kotsay said. “We’ve known the power is in there for the guys that hit the home runs. (Sean) Murphy, Brown, Bethancourt once he got the first one out of the way.”

–Field Level Media