The All-Star break seems to have rejuvenated the Oakland Athletics offense.
The Athletics (47-43) entered the All-Star break tied with the Texas Rangers for the AL West lead despite a major league-worst .243 team batting average. Oakland scored just six total runs in three losses to the Los Angeles Angels heading into the break, including a 3-0 defeat last Friday in which the lineup managed only one hit.
The club has now broken out of its offensive doldrums, though, totaling 20 runs and 29 hits against Boston (53-35) to win its first two games after the three-day layoff. The A’s had a season high in runs in Friday night’s 15-3 rout and plated eight runs in the eighth inning, also a season high.
“It was nice to just be able to go out there and see them produce offensively,” said Oakland starter Barry Zito, who earned the win Friday after receiving a total of one run of support during his three-game losing streak. “Kind of hard to keep track.”
The A’s received a boost from right fielder Milton Bradley, who returned to the lineup after spending more than three weeks on the disabled list with a strained left shoulder. Bradley went 4-for-5 with three RBIs, three runs scored and a catch to rob a homer run from Boston’s Manny Ramirez in the first inning.
“First day back off the DL and it was just really impressive to see him get out there and start everything over,” Zito said. “It’s a new half. It’s probably like a new season for him. He just played like he’s Milton Bradley tonight.”
Oakland, which remains tied with the Rangers atop the AL West, will need to overcome Schilling (10-3, 3.60 ERA) to keep its success going. The 39-year-old right-hander is 6-0 with a 2.76 ERA in seven home starts this season, with the Red Sox winning all of those contests.
Schilling will take his regular turn despite taking a Jim Thome line drive off his throwing elbow in his start on Sunday against the Chicago White Sox. He left the game with a 3-2 lead after six innings but did not receive a decision, as the Red Sox went on to lose the longest game in the majors this season, 6-5 in 19 innings.
“It’s pretty swollen and pretty sore,” Schilling said after allowing two runs and five hits. “The spot where it got me, it wasn’t going to be long. As soon as I got in the dugout within 20 or 30 seconds, there was no shot of me being able to throw a baseball.”
Schilling looks to prevent the Red Sox from dropping a fourth straight game overall and avoid their first three-game home losing streak of the season. Boston has dropped consecutive games at Fenway Park for just the third time this season, and the first time since May 23-24 against the New York Yankees.
Schilling is 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA in six career appearances—four starts— against Oakland.
The Athletics counter with Dan Haren (6-7, 3.52), who looks for his first win in more than a month. Haren has posted a respectable 3.77 ERA in five starts since his last victory on June 14, but has just two losses to show for it.
He allowed four runs in six innings on Sunday against the Angels, taking the loss in the 4-2 defeat.
Haren is 0-2 with a 2.53 ERA in two career starts versus the Red Sox. Both outings came last season at Fenway Park.