The struggling left-hander will take the mound when the A’s open a three-game series in Texas against the Rangers.
After posting a 23-5 record and a 2.75 ERA last season on his way to winning the Cy Young, Zito has been the model of inconsistency in 2003, going 11-12 mostly because of his inability to throw strikes. The league is batting just .224 against him, but he has the second-most walks in the AL with 79.
Zito was tagged for seven runs and six hits over 5 1-3 innings in an 11-2 loss to last-place Tampa Bay on Sunday. The outing was eerily similar to a July 8 start against the Devil Rays in which he allowed seven runs and 15 hits with three walks in 5 1-3 innings of a 9-3 loss at Oakland.
“It goes to show you that if good pitchers walk people, they give up runs, too,” Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said.
With Zito struggling and left-hander Mark Mulder done for the season because of a hip injury, the A’s are heading toward the postseason with some cracks in their normally reliable rotation. Though Zito has yet put together several solid starts in a row, he could be in position to get something started on Friday.
The left-hander has never lost to Texas in his career, going 9-0 with a 2.44 ERA in 15 starts. He is 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA in two starts against the Rangers this season.
Oakland comes into this series riding a three-game winning streak, including a 14-4 win over Anaheim on Thursday. Eric Chavez hit two of the A’s six homers.
The A’s lead the AL West by 2 1/2 games over the Seattle Mariners, who beat the Rangers 8-2 on Thursday.
Entering Friday’s game, Texas first baseman Rafael Palmeiro is two home runs shy of joining Jimmie Foxx as the only players in history with at least 35 home runs and at least 100 RBIs in nine consecutive seasons.
Of Palmeiro’s 32 homers this season, 15 have come against left-handers.
STANDINGS: Athletics - 1st place, AL West. Rangers - 4th place, 21 1/2 GB, AL West.
ATHLETICS PROBABLE STARTER: Zito (11-12, 3.42 ERA). Sixty-two of Zito’s walks have come against right-handed batters.
RANGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Ryan Drese (2-2, 8.07 ERA). Drese went 2-2 with a 7.65 ERA in five starts with the Rangers to start the season before being optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma on May 9. Since being recalled Sept. 1, Drese has allowed three runs—two earned—over 6 1-3 innings of relief.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Athletics - Chavez, .283 avg. and 27 HRs; Miguel Tejada, 94 RBIs and 88 runs; Eric Byrnes and Tejada, 9 SBs. Rangers - Hank Blalock, .311 avg.; Alex Rodriguez, 42 HRs, 105 RBIs, 114 runs and 16 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Athletics, 9-4.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Athletics - Oakland’s six homers on Thursday were the club’s most since Sept. 9, 2000, at Tampa Bay. … If the A’s and Mariners finish with the same record, Oakland will head to Seattle on Sept. 29 for a one-game playoff to determined which team goes to the playoffs. … The A’s are 15-0 this season when they hit three or more homers in a game. Rangers - RHP Drese went 8-6 with a 4.65 ERA in 20 starts for the Triple-A Red Hawks this season. … The Rangers put five minor league teams in the postseason: Frisco in the Texas League, Stockton in the California League, Clinton in the Midwest League, Spokane in the Northwest League and the Arizona Rangers of the Arizona Fall League. … RHP Juan Dominguez has been recalled from Double-A Frisco and will join the Rangers Friday against Oakland.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Athletics - 34-38 on the road; Rangers - 38-34 at home.
INJURIES: Athletics - LHP Micah Bowie (elbow), 15-day DL; LHP Mulder (leg), 15-day DL. Rangers - 3B Herbert Perry (shoulder), 60-day DL; OF Juan Gonzalez (calf), 60-day DL; OF Rusty Greer (neck), 60-day DL; OF Kevin Mench (wrist), 60-day DL; RHP Chan Ho Park (back), 60-day DL; RHP Ricardo Rodriguez (hip), 60-day DL; RHP Jeff Zimmerman (elbow), 60-day DL.