Zito has allowed 15 runs and 35 hits over his last three outings, including a career-high 15 hits in a 9-3 loss to the lowly Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Wednesday. The reigning AL Cy Young Award-winner also matched a career-high by allowing seven runs.
“Of course it looks worse when you get hit by a team that’s not Seattle or the Yankees, but when you’re not on your game there’s very little leeway, even against a team below .500,” Zito said.
A’s manager Ken Macha said the left-hander’s mechanics and delivery haven’t been the problem.
“I’m more concerned about the command thing,” Macha said. “You always want your pitchers to work ahead in the count, and today he fell behind a lot of hitters. Barry’s a command pitcher, and his command of his three pitches is essential to his success.”
Zito, who went 23-5 last season, is 1-2 in his last six starts with a 4.77 ERA.
Oakland pitchers have allowed just seven runs during a four-game winning streak since Zito’s dismal outing against Tampa Bay.
On Saturday, Terrence Long belted a three-run homer and Scott Hatteberg hit a tiebreaking two-run shot in the eighth inning to lead the A’s to a 5-3 win over the Orioles. The defending AL West champions matched their season high at 14 games over .500, and are 7-5 on their season-high 13-game homestand.
The Orioles have dropped four of six since a four-game winning streak.
STANDINGS: (through July 11). Orioles - 4th place, 14 1/2 GB, AL East. Athletics - 2nd place, 4 1/2 GB, AL West.
ORIOLES PROBABLE STARTER: Jason Johnson (7-4, 4.13 ERA). The 6-foot-6 righty is coming off a 6-5 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday. In 5 2-3 innings, Johnson allowed five runs and 10 hits, suffering his first loss since June 14. In nine career games against Oakland, including eight starts, Johnson is 1-6 with a 5.64 ERA.
ATHLETICS PROBABLE STARTER: Zito (8-6, 3.49 ERA). In six career starts against the Orioles, Zito is 3-2 with a 2.63 ERA.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Orioles - Melvin Mora, .354 avg. and 56 runs; Tony Batista, 16 HRs; Jeff Conine and Jay Gibbons, 63 RBIs; Jerry Hairston, 14 SBs. Athletics - Eric Byrnes, .304 avg.; Chavez, 17 HRs; Miguel Tejada, 56 RBIs; Eurbiel Durazo, 52 runs; Byrnes and Chavez, 7 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Athletics, 2-0.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Orioles - OF Luis Matos has a hit in 13 of his last 14 games. … 1B Conine had his 12-game hitting streak snapped Saturday… OF Jack Cust, recalled after Thursday night’s game from Triple-A Ottawa, was delayed in Chicago for five hours and finally arrived in Oakland early Saturday morning to join the team. Athletics - Inspired by Tampa Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella, who promised to dye his hair blond if his team won three straight. Macha is one win away from a buzz cut after promising to sport the new hairstyle if the A’s won five in a row. … The A’s are 7-0 when 1B Hatteberg homers this year, and 12 of his last 18 RBIs have either tied the game or given the A’s the lead. … OF Long is batting .327 (18-for-55) over his last 16 games.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Orioles - 20-25 on the road; Athletics - 35-16 at home.
INJURIES: Orioles - OF Larry Bigbie (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Omar Daal (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Willis Roberts (elbow), 15-day DL; LHP Erik Bedard (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Scott Erickson (shoulder), 60-day DL; 2B Jerry Hairston Jr. (foot), 60-day DL; OF Albert Belle (hip), 60-day DL; OF Marty Cordova (elbow), 60-day DL. Athletics - OF Jermaine Dye (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Micah Bowie (elbow), 15-day DL.