Zito looks to help the A’s bounce back after their series-opening loss to the Angels, as the teams square off in the middle game of their series at McAfee Field.
In his last outing, Zito pitched eight strong innings to win his eighth consecutive start, helping the A’s beat Minnesota 5-2 on Thursday.
“He had a lot of life in his arm,” Oakland manager Ken Macha said. “That’s one of his better outings. He had everything going.”
Zito allowed just four hits and two runs while striking out eight and walking two. He hasn’t lost since June 17 against Philadelphia.
“Not very many teams have been very good against him,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
The A’s have made a habit of late-season surges in recent years, but Zito said this year’s turnaround is the best he’s seen.
“The clubhouse chemistry is better than it’s ever been since I got here in July 2000,” he said. “The team has just been unreal.”
Vladimir Guerrero’s grand slam and five RBIs knocked Oakland out of the clubs’ tie atop the division standings, as the Angels took the opener of this three-game set between division rivals, 9-2.
“Coming into this series, there’s a lot of hype on it being pivotal, (but) I don’t think it is pivotal,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “There’s too much baseball left. … The top of our lineup just did a good job, and a couple of big hits from Vlad kept it going.”
The clubs began the week with identical 64-47 records after Oakland closed an eight-game gap in the last three weeks. The A’s had won 37 of their last 45, streaking into the playoff race after falling 15 games below .500 earlier in the year—and they caught Los Angeles atop the division last weekend before opening this 12-game homestand.
Tuesday marked the third grand slam of the AL MVP’s career—and his second in three weeks, following a slam July 21 in New York. Guerrero pumped his fist for emphasis as he rounded first base.