Oakland (69-52) at Tampa Bay (55-67)

Fair Currently: St. Petersburg, FL
Temp: 84° F
  • Game info: 6:15 pm EDT Sat Aug 21, 2004
  • TV: FSFL
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Barry Zito finally feels as if he’s regaining the form that won him the AL Cy Young Award in 2002. But he’s still getting mixed results.

He’ll look to pitch the AL West-leading Oakland Athletics to their fifth straight win as they continue a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Tropicana Field.

Zito was 4-7 after losing his fourth straight decision on July 11, but the left-hander has gone 4-2 in seven starts since.

He pitched 6 2-3 strong innings against Kansas City on Sunday, leaving the game with a 1-0 lead. But the Oakland bullpen faltered, hanging Zito with a loss in Oakland’s 6-1 defeat. Zito was charged with two runs and four hits over 6 2-3 innings.

“I had a lot of my stuff down in the zone today, which is good,” Zito said. “I felt good all day and then they brought bullpen in. We have confidence in the bullpen. It’s just one of those days.”

Zito struck out a season high-tying nine and held the opposition without a run for the longest stretch in any of his outings since June 3, when he threw seven scoreless innings against Toronto.

“My changeup’s been a better pitch for me the last couple games, the curveball’s more consistent, the fastball’s on both sides of the plate,” he said. “I’ve been looking at some tapes and I feel like I look basically the same as I did in 2002.”

The A’s beat the Devil Rays 9-5 on Friday, moving a season-high 17-games above .500. Eric Chavez had two homers and Adam Melhuse added a blast for Oakland, which has won six straight on the road.

Bobby Crosby went 3-for-5 with a homer for the A’s, snapping an 0-for-14 slide with a second-inning double. The homer was his first in 71 at-bats.

Oakland remains a half-game ahead of Texas and 1 1/2 in front of Anaheim in the West.

“You look up at the scoreboard and you see everybody’s winning, it’s in our minds we better put up a ‘W,”’ Oakland manager Ken Macha said. “We’re getting down to the end. Everybody’s got to be extremely intense everyday.”

Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton and Tino Martinez homered for the Devil Rays, who have lost three straight and nine of 10. Tampa Bay is 15-29 since moving a season-high two games above .500 on July 3 (40-38).

“It goes to show you how much further we got to go,” Tampa Bay manager Lou Piniella said. “We got a reminder of it. A taste of it. What are you going to do? Everybody is trying. The manager is trying. The coaches are trying. The players are trying.

“The problem is, there’s reasons why these teams are above .500 and we’re below.”

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Starting Pitchers

B. Zito Oak vs. J. Halama Oak
11-11 Record 7-6
4.48 ERA 4.70
163 K 59
81 BB 27
1.39 WHIP 1.36