As they begin interleague play, the Athletics are starting to show some offensive punch after floundering at the plate for most of the season. The struggles prompted the firing of hitting coach Thad Bosley on Saturday and the hiring of Dave Hudgens on an interim basis.
The Athletics took three of four from the reeling Kansas City Royals last weekend, scoring 25 runs in the series. Coming in, the A’s had scored more than five runs just twice in the previous 17 games.
In Sunday’s 6-4 win over the Royals, Eric Byrnes extended his hitting streak to 22 by leading off the game with a home run.
Byrnes leads the A’s with a .342 average and is thrilled with the team’s new hitting coach.
“I’ve worked with Hudge since the first day of my professional baseball career,” Byrnes said. “I love him. I think he’s one of the best hitting coaches’ around. I worked him with last year in the Instructional League before going to the Dominican Republic.”
While their offense has underachieved, the Athletics’ elite starting pitching has kept them within five games of the first-place Seattle Mariners, who have the AL’s best record.
Their excellent rotation has not provided the team with consistency, though, as a victory Tuesday would give the A’s their first three-game winning streak since May 3-6.
Mulder is tied for fourth in the AL with eight wins and is coming off two of his best starts of the season, both against the Royals. In the two victories, the left-hander allowed two runs in 17 innings.
The Marlins have dropped three of four since their season-high six-game winning streak, including a 9-6 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday.
Starter Carl Pavano gave up nine runs in 3 1-3 innings. His ERA jumped from 3.63 to 4.54 as he allowed nine hits, struck out four and walked three.
“We just dug ourselves too big a hole early in the game and we just couldn’t rebound,” Marlins manager Jack McKeon said. “We battled back and we didn’t quit. After being down 9-0 we didn’t quit.”
STANDINGS: Athletics - 2nd place, 5 GB, AL West. Marlins - 5th place, 12 GB, NL East.
ATHLETICS PROBABLE STARTER: Mulder (8-2, 2.36 ERA). In a 6-1 win over the Royals on Thursday, Mulder allowed one run and eight hits in seven innings for his seventh win in eight starts.
MARLINS PROBABLE STARTER: Brad Penny (3-3, 3.72 ERA). The 25-year-old right-hander has held the opposition to less than three runs in each of his last three starts, but is just 1-1 during the stretch. In his last outing, a 3-2 loss to the Montreal Expos on Thursday, Penny allowed no runs and six hits in six innings.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Athletics - Byrnes, .342 avg.; Eric Chavez and Miguel Tejada, 10 HRs; Erubiel Durazo, 38 RBIs and 31 runs; Chavez, 5 SBs. Marlins - Alex Gonzalez, .333 avg.; Mike Lowell, 16 HRs, 43 RBIs and 35 runs; Juan Pierre, 23 SBs.
2002 INTERLEAGUE RECORDS: Athletics - 16-2; Marlins - 10-8.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Athletics - Mulder is 5-0 on the road with a 1.69 ERA. … RHP Keith Foulke has 14 saves in 16 chances. … Oakland is 3-3 on its 12-game road trip. Marlins - June is the most successful month in franchise history, and the lone month that the Marlins have a winning record (136-133) … Florida is next-to-last in the NL with nine saves. … 2B Luis Castillo is 1-for-13 (.076) in his last three games.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Athletics - 13-15 on the road; Marlins - 15-13 at home.
INJURIES: Athletics - LHP Micah Bowie (elbow), 15-day DL. Marlins - RHP Josh Beckett (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Toby Borland (appendicitis), 15-day DL; RHP A.J. Burnett (elbow), 60-day DL; OF Abraham Nunez (hamstring), 60-day DL.