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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, July 12, 2013 at 7:00 AM

The Boston Red Sox can make a very solid case for being the #1 team in Major League Baseball at the moment. Not only do they have a great record, but they’re doing that while playing in the toughest division in the superior league. St. Louis Cardinals fans would want to argue…but stick the Cards in the AL East and see what happens!

One reason we know the Cards would take a hit is because they just had trouble in Interleague action against Oakland and Texas. In fact, Oakland could make a case as the #1 team in baseball over the last two months…with a 34-16 record their last 50 games.

So…this weekend’s showcase series between the Boston Red Sox and Oakland A’s arguably features the best team from the overall 2012 campaign playing the best team of the last seven weeks. Clearly something very special! It wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see these two teams line up in the playoffs come October. Be sure you’re studying all the big matchups now to learn who’s best prepared to deal with the pennant races and then playoff pressure. (Do the same thing this weekend with Texas/Detroit, another possible playoff preview on the AL!)

Let’s run through the projected pitching matchups to see how this weekend series by the bay might play out….

 

FRIDAY’S PITCHERS

Boston…Lackey: 6-6, 2.80 ERA, 1.15 WHIP

Oakland… Parker: 6-6, 4.04 ERA, 1.24 WHIP

It’s a crime Lackey only has a 6-6 record given his stellar stats this season. He’s definitely pitching like an ace when you consider the league context and the fact that his home games are in a hitter’s park. A lack of run support has hurt him. Max Scherzer of Detroit is getting a lot more press simply because of friendlier run support. Lackey’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball so far in 2013.

Parker has the same record with an ERA that’s more than a run higher…and Parker pitches his home games in a pitcher’s park! Clear edge to Lackey in the raw numbers. Can the Red Sox score for him in a pitcher’s park? Note that Boston had to fly in from Seattle without a day off while the A’s had a bit of recovery time after wrapping up a series in Pittsburgh late Wednesday.

 

SATURDAY’S PITCHERS

Boston…Lester: 8-5, 4.60 ERA, 1.37 WHIP

Oakland… Griffin: 7-6, 3.94 ERA, 1.14 WHIP

Lester’s ERA is a horrible 6.49 over his last 10 starts…yet he has a better won-lost record because the Sox keep scoring when he happens to be on the mound. His luck isn’t likely to hold up much longer. Quality starts are coming few and far between.

Griffin has been very inconsistent of late. He peaked with a two-hit complete game shutout against Cincinnati. But, he allowed seven runs in only 5.2 innings the next time out against the Chisox. If you think this is likely to be a bad spot against an elite offense, then the Over is probably a smart play. If you figure inconsistent is better than consistently bad (Lester lately), then a case can be made for the A’s.

 

SUNDAY’S PITCHERS

Boston…Undecided

Oakland… Colon: 12-3, 2.69 ERA, 1.11 WHIP

This would be Webster’s spot in the rotation for Boston. But, he’s been so horrible as a part-time starter that there’s no reason to keep throwing him out there. It’s possible this will be a no-show for the Sox given that the All-Star Break begins the next day. They’ve been out West for awhile and are probably ready for a break. Keep an eye on local media reports regarding intensity for this game. Colon will have a huge stat edge over whoever gets the start for Boston…and the A’s may be much more motivated playing at home than Boston is while waiting to catch a plane.

JIM HURLEY will very likely have at least one big play in this showcase series. He’ll also be looking at Texas/Detroit, Baltimore/Toronto, Cincinnati/Atlanta (previewed yesterday in the NOTEBOOK), and Colorado/LA Dodgers. Daily BEST BETS in the bases can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

We’ll begin several consecutive days of football previews Saturday that will take us through baseball’s hiatus. On tap…

Saturday: Sun Belt

Sunday: Independents (including Notre Dame)

Monday: SEC West (featuring two-time defending National Champion Alabama)

Tuesday: SEC East

Wednesday: Big 10 Leaders (featuring national contender Ohio State)

Thursday: Big 10 Legends

We’ll take one day Friday for a showcase MLB series preview (choosing among LA Dodgers/Washington, Pittsburgh/Cincinnati, NY Yankees/Boston, and Baltimore/Texas), then it’s back to football for the weekend.

Be sure you’re with us EVERY DAY so you’re ready for the handicapping challenges ahead. And, link up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK for BIG, JUICY WINNERS!

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