Game 32: A's at Red Sox - Boston looking for straight (sweep of) A's

Ben Whitehead
Contributing Writer

Slowly but surely, the Boston Red Sox are coming together. Jon Lester pitched one of the best games of his career, striking out a career-high 15 Oakland A's batters. Jonny Gomes hit the Sox second grand slam in as many days. All else told, Boston won its second straight game against the AL's best team and has a chance to sweep the A's today.

John Lackey, arguably the Red Sox most consistent pitcher in the early going, will get that opportunity. Lackey is 4-2 with a 3.83 ERA with 40 innings under his belt. He's struck out 39 and walked eight. Despite a couple of hiccups in his second and third start, Lackey has pitched brilliantly. In four of his six starts, he's allowed two runs or less and pitched at least six innings each time.

Not only do the Sox have a chance to sweep the A's, their first sweep of the season, it would be their first three-game winning streak this season. Here is the Red Sox (15-16) lineup for today's game (first pitch - 1:35 pm ET):

1) Pedroia, 2B
2) Victorino, RF
3) Ortiz, DH
4) Carp, 1B
5) Pierzynski, C
6) Bogaerts, SS
7) Sizemore, LF
8) Middlebrooks, 3B
9) Bradley Jr., CF

Lackey, P

One of the best young arms in the game is on the mound for Oakland (18-12). That would be Sonny Gray. In his second season - first full season - Gray is 4-1 with a 1.76 ERA through six starts. The right-hander has allowed eight earned runs in 41 innings, while striking out 37 and walking 14.

From #WalkOffCity to #SlamCity
Dating back to Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS, a span of 42 games, the Red Sox have slugged five grand slams. David Ortiz's infamous slam in Game 2 against the Tigers and Shane Victorino's in the ALCS clincher helped Boston get to the World Series, where they won it for third time in 10 years. In the last seven games, the Sox bats have exploded for three slams, beginning with A.J. Pierzynski's last Saturday in Toronto. Dustin Pedroia and Gomes have provided the power in Games 1 and 2 of this series. Will they make it three straight games?

Laser Show at leadoff
Pedroia has spent 12 games at the leadoff spot in the Sox order this season, including each of the last nine games. He's hitting .250, just south of his season average of .278. But Pedey has a .361 OBP when batting in the top spot and has provided the spark the Sox have needed. Boston is 7-5 when he leads off and 8-11 with someone else at the top of the order.

Still no winning "mini-season"
After another .500 10-game stretch, the Red Sox have now gone three mini-seasons without a winning record. Last year, the Sox went the entire year and produced only five such stretches. Here's how Boston stacks up through 30 games this year:
1) 4-6
2) 5-5
3) 5-5

Case of the Mondays
Mike Napoli gets today off, but don't be shocked to see him off the bench later in the game. The Red Sox have an off day Monday before the Cincinnati Reds come to Fenway Park for quick two-game series. Boston has another off day Thursday and then hits the road for three games in Texas and three more in Minnesota. In fact, the Red Sox had last Monday off and don't play on a Monday again until Memorial Day, May 26 - a stretch of four straight Mondays off.

Like what you read? See more from Ben here.
Have a question or comment for Ben? Give him a shout on Twitter: @thebenwhitehead