The Oakland Athletics and the host Boston Red Sox will send their workhorses to the mound when the division leaders open a three-game series on Tuesday.
Athletics right-hander Chris Bassitt (2-2, 3.70 ERA) will pitch opposite Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (4-2, 4.62 ERA) in the series opener. Both pitchers leading their team in innings.
Bassitt is tied with Sean Manaea for the team lead in strikeouts with 43 while logging 41 1/3 innings over his seven starts. The 32-year-old has logged at least seven strikeouts in four consecutive starts.
After giving up three and four runs in his first two outings, Bassitt has been remarkably consistent. He has allowed exactly two runs in each of his past five starts despite earning a win in just two of those games.
"He's come a long way, not only as a pitcher, but understanding you can't let one inning beat you," Oakland manager Bob Melvin said after Bassitt's last start on Wednesday against the Toronto Blue Jays. "You have to just put it to bed and do your thing."
Bassitt, whose primary weapon is his slider, tossed a season-high seven innings while yielding two runs on six hits and striking out seven in a no-decision during the Athletics' 9-4 loss to the Blue Jays.
Bassitt has never faced the Red Sox. Marwin Gonzalez (1-for-6, homer, 2 RBIs) and J.D. Martinez (1-for-8, walk) are the only Boston hitters who have faced him.
Eovaldi, who has pitched a team-leading 39 innings, is hoping for a bounce-back performance. He surrendered a season-high six runs on seven hits in a season-low 4 1/3 innings in a no-decision during Boston's 12-9 home win against the Detroit Tigers on Thursday.
A comfort for most, pitching at his home ballpark has not produced good results for the veteran hurler this season. Eovaldi is 2-2 with a 5.46 ERA in five starts at Fenway while going 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in two road starts.
Pitching against Oakland hasn't produced favorable results for Eovaldi, either. He is just 1-2 with a 4.28 ERA in seven starts against the Athletics.
Ramon Laureano is the only current Oakland batter with a hit against Eovaldi, going 1-for-2 with a home run and two RBIs. Ten other Athletics are a combined 0-for-32 vs. Eovaldi.
The Red Sox fell 4-1 in Baltimore on Monday night after taking the first three games of the series and winning five of their previous six overall. Boston leads the majors with 22 wins.
"I think a lot of people will be surprised, but I think that all the people in the clubhouse -- we're not surprised," Gonzalez, the Red Sox utility man, said Monday. "We're working hard. We're playing with a lot of energy, and I think that we're here for a reason."
Oakland is right behind with 21 wins. The Athletics lost 4-3 in their series finale against the visiting Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday, but Oakland took two of three in the set and has won five of its past eight contests.
--Field Level Media