After suffering their first sweep of the season, the Oakland Athletics hope sending Barry Zito to the mound Friday against a team he has dominated can turn around their pitching woes as they open a three-game set with the Texas Rangers.
Zito is 15-2 with a 3.15 ERA in 24 career starts against the Rangers, and the Athletics are 21-3 in those games.
The 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner won 10 straight decisions over Texas from April 19, 2001-Sept. 22, 2003, and his 15 victories over the Rangers are four more than against any other opponent.
The left-hander went 2-0 with a 4.29 ERA in three starts against Texas last season, and is 6-1 with a 2.60 ERA in 12 career starts against the Rangers at McAfee Coliseum.
After a forgettable season opener, allowing seven runs in 1 1-3 innings of a 15-2 loss to the Yankees, Zito allowed just one hit in six innings in a 3-0 win over Seattle on Saturday.
Oakland lost to the Minnesota Twins 8-2 on Thursday, and gave up 21 runs and 35 hits in the three-game series after yielding only four runs and eight hits over their previous three games at Seattle.
“We didn’t make any pitches,” Athletics manager Ken Macha said. “You get good hitters and leave it in the middle of the plate, and they burn you.”
Oakland had not been swept since losing to Baltimore from Aug. 15-17—a span of 16 series.
Frank Thomas had a two-run double Thursday, but has just two hits in 25 at-bats this season. Thomas has had success against the Rangers, though, batting .320 with 27 home runs in 459 career at-bats.
Nick Swisher went 3-for-4 against the Twins on Thursday with two home runs and a double to increase his batting average to .296, but is just 15-for-78 (.192) against Texas in his career.
The A’s won 11 of 19 games against the Rangers last year, but were 4-6 at McAfee Coliseum.
Kevin Millwood will go for his first win with Texas after losing his first two starts of the season.
The right-hander has allowed 10 earned runs in 11 innings, but is 2-0 lifetime against Oakland with a 1.20 ERA in two starts.
“I’m trying to get things right,” said Millwood, who signed a $60 million, five-year deal with the Rangers in the offseason. “It’s been a bit of a struggle early on. I feel the last part of my last game I got into a bit of a groove.
“I just want to have a good outing and turn the tide a little bit, get things going in a positive direction for me and the team.”
Texas beat the Los Angeles Angels 11-3 on Wednesday as it scored just two fewer runs than it totaled in its previous five games.
“Our offense had been struggling and we haven’t been playing up to our abilities, so it was nice to break through and get a lot of runs,” first baseman Mark Teixeira said.
Teixeira, who hit 43 home runs last year, hit his first homer of the season on Wednesday, and has 16 home runs against the A’s, his most against any opponent.
Teixeira is 10-for-30 with one homer and six RBIs in his career against Zito.