In the last four seasons, the Oakland Athletics have come out of a May slump to have a fantastic June. On Tuesday, they begin a three-game series against the Cleveland Indians heading in a similar direction.
After winning three of four from the Minnesota Twins over the weekend, the Athletics’ record in June the past five years increased to 75-38. This comes after a 12-17 record last month caused their overall May record in that span to fall to 58-78.
“It just seems like we’re a team that always (struggles) in May, and then we bounce back in June,” first baseman Dan Johnson said after Oakland’s 5-1 win over the Twins on Sunday. “Hopefully this will be the series that gets it going for us.”
On Sunday, Brad Halsey got the win after giving up two hits over five innings in relief of Rich Harden, who made an abbreviated start in his first appearance since spending time on the disabled list with a strained back. He gave up one run and four hits in four innings while issuing three walks in his first game since April 26.
Oakland’s pitching staff has given up just four runs in the last five games, and the team is sending its ace to the mound on Tuesday.
Barry Zito (5-3, 2.87 ERA) has allowed a total of six runs in his last six starts, spanning 48 innings. On Thursday, he held the Twins to four hits over seven scoreless innings in a 4-0 win. Zito had no walks and five strikeouts, including the 1,000th of his career.
“Each start is a new start, and while momentum is great, it’s not something tangible or something you can count on,” Zito said. “You just have to keep focusing on that one pitch, that one inning, that one game.”
Zito, who is 4-3 with a 2.09 ERA in eight starts against the Indians, will have to be in top form against one of the majors’ most prolific offensive teams.
The Indians are averaging 5.8 runs per game, among the best in the majors, and that average has gone up to 7.8 in June.
While Cleveland is hitting well, the team’s pitching is allowing its opponents to do so as well. Cleveland has given up 34 runs in the last four games and the starting rotation’s ERA has grown to 5.08 this season, one of the highest in the majors.
Uneven starts by Jake Westbrook (5-3, 5.00) haven’t helped.
Westbrook went seven innings on Wednesday in a 5-0 win over the Chicago White Sox. However, he gave up seven runs and seven hits while walking four in 5 1-3 innings in his previous start against the Detroit Tigers.
His two prior starts showed a similar pattern.
“I think he’s going to settle in,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “He always finds a way to figure it out.”
Westbrook is 2-5 with a 4.23 ERA in 10 appearances against Oakland.
Outfielder Milton Bradley should return for the A’s in this series to play at Jacobs Field for the first time since the Indians traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2004. Bradley, expected to be in the lineup on Wednesday, had been sidelined since April 25 with a sprained knee and later a strained oblique muscle.
Bradley spent more than two seasons with Cleveland, and his departure was not a happy one. Cleveland dealt him to the Dodgers a day before the 2004 season opener following a heated dispute with Wedge.
Cleveland lost two of three over the weekend against the Los Angeles Angels, including a 14-2 defeat on Sunday.