Barry Zito was having a tough enough time following up on his AL Cy Young Award winning season. Now he’ll have to deal with the fact that fellow left-hander Mark Mulder won’t be around to pick him up after a bad start.
Zito looks for some consistency in what has been, by his high standards, a mediocre year when the A’s continue a three-game series with the Baltimore Orioles at Network Associates Coliseum.
Zito, who went 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA en route to winning the league’s top pitching honor last year, has been unable to recapture the form that saw him post a 47-17 mark over his first three seasons in the majors.
Zito was riding his first back-to-back wins since the opening week of the season into Friday’s start in Toronto. But on the day the A’s learned that they would likely be without Mulder, their top winner, for the remainder of the season, Zito again failed to put forth his best effort.
He was reached for five runs and six hits over 5 1-3 innings in a 6-3 loss to the Blue Jays.
“We shouldn’t feel that individually we have to pitch like two starting pitchers now,” Zito said after hearing that Mulder would be shut down with a hip injury.
The A’s needed 12 innings to beat the Orioles 2-1 in Tuesday’s series opener. Scott Hatteberg’s RBI single in the bottom of the 12th kept Oakland tied with Seattle for first place in the AL West and a game ahead of Boston in the AL wild card standings.
Oakland also received some potentially encouraging news regarding Mulder, who indicated that he is still hoping to return in time for the playoffs.
The Orioles have lost three straight and 11 of 15.
STANDINGS: Orioles - 4th place, 19 1/2 GB, AL East. Athletics - tied for 1st place, AL West.
ORIOLES PROBABLE STARTER: Pat Hentgen (5-6, 4.36 ERA). Hentgen, the 1996 AL Cy Young winner, ended a three-start winless streak Friday at New York, limiting the Yankees to three runs and six hits over 7 2-3 solid innings in a 4-3 victory. The veteran right-hander is 7-6 with a 4.29 ERA in 18 career appearances, including 17 starts, against the A’s.
ATHLETICS PROBABLE STARTER: Zito (10-11, 3.38 ERA). Zito is 3-2 with a 2.17 ERA in seven career starts against the Orioles.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Orioles - Jay Gibbons, .291 avg. and 89 RBIs; Tony Batista, 22 HRs; Jeff Conine, 75 runs; Brian Roberts, 20 SBs. Athletics - Eric Chavez, .277 avg. and 23 HRs; Miguel Tejada, 85 RBIs and 77 runs; Eric Byrnes, 9 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Athletics, 4-0.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Orioles - RHP Hentgen is 2-2 with a 3.70 ERA in 11 appearances, including seven starts, on the road this season. … The Orioles are 0-4 in Oakland this year. The A’s swept a three-game series from Baltimore shortly before the All-Star break. … OF Luis Matos was hit on the left wrist by a pitch in the top of the 12th inning Tuesday and left the game. Athletics - LHP Zito is 5-5 with a 3.32 ERA in 13 home starts this year. For his career, he is 29-11 with a 3.14 ERA in Oakland. … LHP John Halama will make his second start in place of Mulder in Thursday’s series finale. … The A’s have won four in a row overall and three straight at home.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Orioles - 28-38 on the road; Athletics - 45-21 at home.
INJURIES: Orioles - 1B David Segui (wrist), 15-day DL; OF Melvin Mora (hand), 15-day DL; RHP Kurt Ainsworth (shoulder), 15-day DL; LHP Omar Daal (rotator cuff), 15-day DL; LHP Erik Bedard (elbow), 60-day DL; RHP Scott Erickson (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Willis Roberts (elbow), 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; LHP Mulder (hip), 15-day DL.