Barry Zito is learning how difficult it is to follow-up a Cy Young season.
Roy Halladay is just trying to stay in the thick of this year’s AL Cy Young race.
Zito, who went 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA in winning his first Cy Young last year, has found victories much more difficult to come by this season. The left-hander endured a career-high seven-start winless streak before bouncing back to win his last two outings, evening his record at 10-10.
On Sunday, Zito limited the Blue Jays to three runs and four hits over seven innings, easily outdueling Halladay in a 7-3 win at Network Associates Coliseum.
“With Halladay on the mound, you’re hoping for a few runs,” Zito said. “We got more than that and it took the pressure off a little bit. You still can’t take them lightly though.”
Halladay, who won a franchise record-tying 15 straight decisions from May 1-July 27, establishing himself as the top contender for AL’s ultimate pitching honor, has gone 1-3 in his last four outings, including Sunday’s loss to Zito and the A’s.
The hard-throwing right-hander was reached for a season high-tying seven runs and 10 hits in a season-low three innings.
“It was just a bad day all around,” Halladay said. “I felt like I could have made better pitches, and they got key groundball hits that hurt us.”
The A’s failed to complete a three-game sweep in Boston on Thursday, suffering a 14-5 loss that shaved their lead in the AL wild-card race to just one game over the Red Sox.
Oakland, which trails first-place Seattle by three games in the AL West, absorbed a blow to its postseason chances when it placed left-hander Mark Mulder on the disabled list with tendinitis in his right hip. Mulder leads the heralded A’s staff with 15 wins.
The Blue Jays took the final two games of their three-game set with Seattle, including Thursday’s 7-3 win. Bobby Kielty went 3-for-5 for the Blue Jays, who won consecutive home games for the first time since June 26-27.
STANDINGS: Athletics - 2nd place, 3 GB, AL West. Blue Jays - 3rd place, 16 GB, AL East.
ATHLETICS PROBABLE STARTER: Zito (10-10, 3.22 ERA). Zito is 4-1 with a 3.07 ERA in seven career starts against Toronto.
BLUE JAYS PROBABLE STARTER: Halladay (16-5, 3.53 ERA). Halladay is 2-4 with a 6.98 ERA in seven career starts against Oakland.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Athletics - Eric Chavez, .274 avg. and 23 HRs; Miguel Tejada, 76 RBIs; Erubiel Durazo, 70 runs; Eric Byrnes, 9 SBs. Blue Jays - Vernon Wells, .310 avg.; Carlos Delgado, 33 HRs, 116 RBIs and 96 runs; Kielty, 6 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Athletics, 2-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Athletics - LHP Mulder was replaced on the roster by RHP Mike Wood, who was recalled from Triple-A Sacramento. … Oakland is 2-1 on its seven-game road trip. … OF Terrence Long is 5-for-12 with a homer and six RBIs in his career against RHP Halladay. Blue Jays - Toronto has not won three straight at home since winning four in a row from June 10-14. … 1B Delgado is just 2-for-12 career against LHP Zito. … Halladay is 6-1 with a 3.50 ERA in 12 home starts this season.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Athletics - 29-32 on the road; Blue Jays - 27-33 at home.
INJURIES: Athletics - OF Jermaine Dye (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Micah Bowie (elbow), 15-day DL. Blue Jays - RHP Cory Lidle (groin), 15-day DL; RHP Pete Walker (calf), 15-day DL; LHP Doug Creek (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Bob File (calf), 60-day DL.