Tony Gwynn & Jeff Passan: Will Oakland turn it around?
The Oakland Athletics are last in the major leagues in hitting, but have been putting together some impressive offensive performances lately.
The Athletics look to stay hot at the plate when they open a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays Friday at McAfee Coliseum.
Oakland (15-13) beat the Cleveland Indians 12-4 on Thursday for their sixth win in seven games. The A’s are hitting only .233 this season—four points less than Kansas City, which owns the worst record in the majors.
The A’s have scored at least 10 runs in three of their last five games— their only double-digit offensive performances this season.
Oakland bounced back after a 14-3 loss in the series opener.
“It shows the character of this team coming back from the whipping (on Wednesday),” said Nick Swisher, who drove in three runs with two doubles. “Hitting’s contagious.”
“These guys are pretty resilient,” manager Ken Macha said. “They don’t let one day affect the next day they come out.”
Tampa Bay’s Scott Kazmir (3-2, 3.72 ERA) will try to slow down Oakland’s offense. Kazmir allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings of Sunday’s 5-4 win over Curt Schilling and the Boston Red Sox.
The 22-year-old left-hander struck out 10 batters and walked just one.
“It was beautiful,” Devil Rays first-year manager Joe Maddon said. “None of it surprises me. I just love his demeanor right now on the mound.”
Kazmir has allowed two or fewer runs in four of his six starts this season. He is 1-0 with a 3.94 ERA in three career starts against the A’s.
Kazmir’s two starts last season against Oakland both came against Joe Blanton, who will take the mound for Oakland in this contest.
Kazmir gave up two runs and seven hits in six innings of a 14-6 win on May 25, while Blanton recorded just one out, giving up eight runs and six hits and getting the loss.
Five days later, Kazmir allowed a run and three hits in seven innings and Blanton gave up four runs and seven hits in 4 2-3 innings in Oakland’s 5-4 win in 11 innings. Neither pitcher received a decision.
Blanton (3-2, 6.14 ERA) is 0-1 with an 11.70 ERA in three career starts against the Devil Rays. He won his second straight start on Sunday, allowing five runs and six hits in five innings of the 13-6 win over the Royals.
Blanton threw 118 pitches and gave up a career-high five walks.
“I don’t think I’ve ever walked that many people—I mean minor leagues, college, anything,” Blanton said. “I just feel like I was barely missing all day.”
The Devil Rays (11-18) have lost a season high-tying four in a row, including Thursday’s 10-5 loss to the New York Yankees. Ty Wigginton homered for Tampa Bay, which optioned third baseman Sean Burroughs to Triple-A Durham and designated infielder Nick Green for assignment after the game.
Dan Miceli will be placed on the 15-day disabled list with shoulder soreness, and the Devil Rays plan to activate third baseman Aubrey Huff (left knee sprain) and shortstop Julio Lugo (abdominal strain) from the DL on Friday.