Although Barry Zito is mired in the worst season of his career, he has pitched well lately.
After going 61-29 with a 3.12 ERA in his first 3 1/2 seasons in the majors, the left-hander struggled to a 4-7 mark with a 4.62 ERA in 18 starts before the All-Star break. He had a strong outing in his first start after the break, limiting the Chicago White Sox to one run and four hits in seven innings of a 5-1 victory on July 16. It was his first victory since June 8, and just his second since May 16.
However, Zito followed that by giving up five runs and nine hits in five innings at Seattle last Wednesday. It was just the second time in his last six starts that he allowed more than two earned runs, and he’s 1-3 during that stretch.
Zito will now try to help Oakland get its first three-game win streak since sweeping a three-game set against Anaheim from June 29 to July 1.
The Athletics have won consecutive games just three times since, including a 9-2 victory against Texas on Sunday.
Erubiel Durazo hit one of four home runs as the Athletics trimmed another game off the Rangers’ division lead.
“We’ve been in the playoffs the last four years,” said Durazo, who made the postseason with Arizona three times before joining the A’s last season. “I’ve been in the playoffs a lot. I don’t want to miss the playoffs. Our goal is to get past the first round. … We’ve been working hard.”
Eric Chavez and Mark Kotsay both homered for the second straight day, and Eric Byrnes also homered. Rich Harden made another impressive start for the A’s, who took two of three from the first-place Rangers to pull within 2 1/2 games in the AL West.
“Taking two out of three, to me, shows the character of this club,” Athletics manager Ken Macha said.
The Mariners are coming off a 6-2 win against the Angels on Sunday, avoiding a three-game sweep in their last home game before a four-city, 14-game trip. Dave Hansen and Bucky Jacobsen homered and Joel Pineiro allowed one run and five hits in eight innings for the Mariners.