The run support that helped Oakland starter Barry Zito win eight straight starts has all but disappeared.
Zito looks to help the Athletics take over sole possession of first place in the American League wild-card race as they wrap up their three-game series with the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
Zito lost his second straight start on Saturday, allowing two runs and four hits in seven innings of a 2-1 defeat to the Kansas City Royals, who stopped a 19-game losing streak. The 27-year-old left-hander is 0-2 in his last three starts since his winning streak.
The A’s have scored just three runs in Zito’s last two starts, and a total of just seven in his 10 losses this season. Zito, who lost consecutive starts for the first time since May, was 3-8 before his winning streak.
Zito is starting Thursday in place of Rich Harden, who is being pushed back because of a slight strain in his throwing shoulder. Manager Ken Macha, who is moving Zito and Joe Blanton up one day, said that he hopes that Harden can pitch Saturday at Baltimore.
“We’re hoping that in a couple of days he’ll be all right,” Macha said. “If he can’t start Saturday, it’ll be one start he misses, so it’s not that serious.”
The A’s beat the Tigers 9-2 on Wednesday, snapping a three-game losing streak. Oakland, which has lost nine of 14 after winning 20 of 24, is tied with the Yankees and the Indians atop the AL wild-card standings.
“There’s a lot more baseball to be played,” said Oakland’s Eric Chavez. “Things like this usually come around. I think there’s another stretch in our bats we can put together.”
New York lost 9-5 to Toronto on Wednesday, and Cleveland lost 13-3 to Tampa Bay.
“We haven’t been swinging the bats lately,” said Chavez, who missed Tuesday’s game to be with his wife and newborn son. “Hopefully we can score five, six runs tomorrow and get our confidence back.”
Carlos Pena homered for the Tigers, who had won eight of nine games and gave up just two hits to the A’s on Tuesday. Pena is 9-for-16 with six homers and 12 RBI since being recalled from Triple-A Toledo on Aug. 17, but manager Alan Trammell said he probably wouldn’t be in the lineup against Zito.
“(Oakland) got back on track and we just couldn’t stop them,” Detroit manager Alan Trammell said. “It was just a night the Tigers got pounded.”