Barry Zito is looking a lot like the pitcher that won the 2002 AL Cy Young Award.
After a dreary April in which he went 0-4 with a 6.60 ERA, Zito has bounced back in a big way, including posting a 1.61 ERA over his last seven starts.
The 27-year-old left-hander is coming off tossing six solid innings in a 13-4 rout of Cleveland on Monday. He gave up three runs—the most he has allowed since a 6-1 loss to Philadelphia on June 17—scattered five hits, and struck out six as he climbed above .500 (9-8) for the first time this year.
Zito, who went 23-5 with a 2.75 ERA during his memorable 2002 season, has received a lot of help from Oakland’s resurgent offense. The A’s have scored a combined seven runs in his eight losses this season, but are averaging eight per game during his current winning streak.
“(Zito’s) the No. 1,” said third baseman Eric Chavez, who homered twice and drove in four runs in Monday’s rout. “He’s pitched like that the whole year, but we haven’t played good behind him.
“Thank God we catch a stretch where he’s throwing the ball well and we’re playing well and he can catch a couple of victories. I don’t see him slowing down at all. He’s just getting better.”
Oakland continued its success at the plate in an 8-4 win over Detroit on Friday, its ninth win in its last 10 games.
The A’s have raced to the top of the AL wild card standings by going 29-7 over the last six weeks. They have won 12 of 15 since the All-Star break to pull within 3 1/2 games of the first-place Los Angeles Angels in the AL West.
“We’re not settling for any wild card,” Zito said. “We have a lot of great players in this room. If we put it together like we have been, we can come away with the AL West. We’ve got to shoot for the top.”
Placido Polanco had four hits and drove in two runs on Friday for the Tigers, who lost for the third time in four games despite hitting the ball hard all night. Detroit had 15 hits but stranded 12 runners.