A's phenom Rich Harden gives Oakland a four-midable rotation. AP
By Dan George, SI.com
Think the next 10 days going to be interesting for the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics?
The Red Sox and A's are running 1-2 in the American League wild-card race -- just one game separates them -- and starting Monday night in Oakland they play each other seven times over the next week and a half.
"It's huge -- both teams have to go full out, because a sweep of either one could spell doom for that team," Red Sox center fielder Johnny Damon told the San Francisco Chronicle. "I think it's a great matchup. Oakland has the three best and now maybe the four best starters, and they're looking for them to carry them. We need to do it with our bats."
Yeah, it could be interesting.
The Red Sox, checking in at No. 5 in the latest SI.com Power Rankings, boast the best-hitting team in the AL. Their .293 team batting average tops both leagues, they're averaging 6.1 runs per game and they're on pace to hit a franchise-record 241 home runs.
The sixth-ranked A's, meanwhile, feature the AL's best pitching staff, sporting a 3.45 ERA while limiting opponents to a .242 average.
The series got under way Monday night with a classic pitching matchup, Boston's Pedro Martinez (8-2, 2.32 ERA) against Oakland's Tim Hudson (10-4, 2.64). Martinez entered the game with a 6-1 record and 2.02 ERA lifetime against the A's, his only loss to Oakland coming against Hudson in 1999.
Oh, yeah. It could be interesting.
SI.com's Power Rankings
Atlanta Braves They've banged 174 home runs this season, including five in a 10-2 rout of the Brewers last week. "I thought [third base coach] Fredi [Gonzalez] did a hell of a job out there tonight," said Bobby Cox. "He's in there icing his arm."
San Francisco Giants NL newcomer Sidney Ponson, who's been known to wear a South Park t-shirt under his uniform, should fit in well. When he said he planned to pick the brain of teammate Jason Schmidt for info on opposing hitters, Schmidt said, "That's a small pick."
New York Yankees How about Raul Mondesi claiming the Yankees treat Dominicans differently than other players? Actually, they just treated him the same as his two previous teams -- they traded him.
Seattle Mariners With lingering concerns about Kazuhiro Sasaki's health, they decided they needed another possible closer in the worst way. So they traded for Armando Benitez. God, I love that joke.
Boston Red Sox The 2004 Democratic National Convention will be in Boston next July, and Mayor Thomas M. Menino has asked the Red Sox to schedule only day games during that time. And if they want to vote Democratic, that would be cool, too.
Oakland Athletics Something you won't see on the back of Barry Zito's 2004 baseball card: Tigers rookie Jeremy Bonderman is 5-15 with a 5.37 ERA, but two of those victories have come against Zito, the 2002 Cy Young winner.
Florida Marlins For $75, you can buy the "D-Train Flex Pass," a block of tickets to five straight home games guaranteeing you a chance to see rookie Dontrelle Willis pitch. Or Jack McKeon scratch himself in an embarrassing place.
Philadelphia Phillies Mired in a season-long slump, Pat Burrell bleached his hair bright blond. In his first game with the new ‘do, he went 1-for-3 against the Giants, and on Saturday he slugged a pair of home runs. Plus, there were all those compliments from Pac Bell fans.
Houston Astros The Elias Sports Bureau says Craig Biggio is one of only five players in major league history with 2,400 hits, 200 home runs, 500 doubles, 300 stolen bases, and 1,000 walks. And, frankly, who are we to argue with Elias?
Chicago White Sox The remains of a mob enforcer slain in 1970 were found buried outside U.S. Cellular Field. Hey, some of Bill Veeck's promotions worked, some of them didn't.
Kansas City Royals They've already matched last season's win total (62), but an inability to beat the White Sox could cost them the division title. Of course, back in the spring who could have imagined me even writing that sentence?
Arizona Diamondbacks Mark Grace is on the DL, but is he really hurt? Grace said he told D'backs trainer Paul Lessard about his sore elbow about 1 p.m. Wednesday, but Robby Hammock, the player who replaced Grace, said he learned of his promotion about 10 a.m. That sound you hear is our eyebrows rising.
Los Angeles Dodgers They fired hitting coach Jack Clark for publicly criticizing the team's talent -- then made sure it wouldn't happen again by replacing him with George Hendrick, who hasn't spoken to the media since saying he was misquoted in 1973. At least, we think that's what he said.
St. Louis Cardinals They picked up veteran lefty Pedro Borbon Jr. to shore up their bullpen. Imagine the collective gnashing of teeth when he allowed nine of the first 14 hitters he faced to get hits.
Chicago Cubs Friday marked the 15th anniversary of the first night game at Wrigley Field, or, as we like to call it, the decline of western civilization. Of course, that game was rained out after 3 ½ innings, so the first night game was actually Aug. 9, 1988.
Minnesota Twins The good news is they're 11-1 against the Tigers this season. The bad news is they're 49-56 against major league teams. Oooohhhh, the cheap shots are always the best ones.
Montreal Expos They're 12-2 when playing in front of home crowds of at least 15,000 at Olympic Stadium -- and 4-0 when playing in front of crowds of more than 20,000 there. Insert sacre bleu! wisecrack here.
Colorado Rockies Clint Hurdle, who played a good part of his career with George Brett, says Todd Helton reminds him a lot of the Royals' Hall of Famer. Except, you know, without the hemorrhoids.
Toronto Blue Jays They haven't won back-to-back games at SkyDome since beating Baltimore and Montreal on June 26-27. You know, back when Arnold was still an actor and Gigli was just a nasty rumor.
Baltimore Orioles Nobody can figure out what's wrong with Melvin Mora's hand. Some are even wondering if he's dogging it to protect his average, which has slipped from .370 to .326. Geez, a guy has dinner with David Segui one time …
Anaheim Angels They're threatening to become only the second team since division play began in 1969 to win the World Series one year and finish in last place the next. Forget Gray Davis -- recall the Rally Monkey.
Pittsburgh Pirates Once again, Jose Hernandez is on pace to break Bobby Bonds' major league strikeout record of 189. He has 144. Hernandez finished with 185 whiffs in 2001 and 188 last season before Davey Lopes and Jerry Roytster benched him. The party poopers.
Cincinnati Reds Jose Acevedo dashed off the Dodger Stadium mound after striking out Jeromy Burnitz, caught his spike on the dugout steps and sprained his ankle. He'll be out three weeks, which could cripple the Reds' drive for fourth place.
Texas Rangers Rafael Palmeiro has caught some heat for not accepting a trade to the Cubs. Hey, who wouldn't want to become the first 500 home run hitter to platoon with Eric Karros?
Cleveland Indians Against 16-year veteran Jamie Moyer last week, they fielded a lineup with a combined major league service time of five years. Moyer retired 21 of the 25 batters he faced for a 2-1 victory. Nevertheless, Eric Wedge took them all out for ice cream afterward.
New York Mets Tony Clark hit five home runs last week, giving him 15 for the season. Keep this up, and people are going to stop thinking he's Mo Vaughn.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays As far as Victor Zambrano is concerned, the strike zone is just a suggestion. He leads the league in wild pitches (14), hit batsmen (15) and walks (77). Amazingly, he's still 9-6.
Milwaukee Brewers They're headed for their 11th straight losing season, but rookie manager Ned Yost remains upbeat. "It's like the 15-year-old kid that goes to the bus stop and gets his butt whipped by an 18-year-old every day," he said. "It's hard to keep getting up and going to the bus stop every day. But once in a while you beat the crap out of the 18-year-old." Funny, I remember that first part a lot better than the second.
San Diego Padres One reader, citing their near .500 play since starting 15-40, complains that we've dissed the Pods. He's right. Our bad. In the "Since June 1 Power Rankings," they're a solid No. 18.
Detroit Tigers Their games average 2 hours, 32 minutes, fastest in the majors. Say what you want, but at least they don't drag out the agony.