Oakland right-hander Dan Haren has been the ace of one of the best pitching staffs in the majors this season, but Gil Meche has been equally impressive for a rotation that has struggled to notch many victories.
The two square off Wednesday when the Athletics and Kansas City Royals continue their three-game series at Kauffman Stadium.
Oakland (16-15) boasts an AL-best 3.07 ERA and Haren leads the league with a stifling 1.75 mark. He is 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA in his last four starts, lasting at least seven innings in each of those outings and holding opponents to a .189 batting average.
Haren (3-2, 1.75 ERA) held Tampa Bay to two runs and four hits while striking out a season-high nine over seven innings, but didn’t factor into Oakland’s 5-2 win on Friday. He threw 70 of his 102 pitches for strikes.
“The guy’s been lights out for us all season long,” said Oakland’s Nick Swisher, who leads the team with 17 RBIs. “The only frustrating part about it was we couldn’t get him the win.”
Haren, who is 2-1 with a 2.49 ERA in three career starts versus Kansas City, hopes his squad can duplicate its performance from Tuesday’s series opener. The A’s tied their season-high with 13 hits in a 6-1 win over the Royals, improving to 5-0 when scoring six or more runs.
Swisher drove in two runs, and Eric Chavez went 3-for-5 for Oakland, which is hitting just .239 as a team.
“We’ve been pretty bad,” said Chavez, whose two doubles helped the A’s tie their season best with five. “We’re not going to be this bad all year. We have a better offense than we’ve been doing. Hopefully, we can maintain scoring some runs. I hit the ball hard four times and that’s encouraging.”
Oakland’s recent play at Kauffman Stadium has also been encouraging as it is 20-3 in its last 23 games there. The A’s are going for their third straight overall victory while the Royals (10-23) are trying to end a four-game slide during which they have been outscored 32-13.
Meche (3-1, 2.23) looks to help Kansas City end its skid and tries to win his third straight start when he takes the mound. The right-hander, who signed a $55 million, five-year deal with the Royals in the offseason, has proved to be worth every penny thus far.
He has thrown five straight quality starts, allowing only five earned runs through 34 innings, and his ERA ranks third in the AL. Meche allowed two hits over seven innings on Thursday, retiring 17 straight batters after allowing a two-run, first-inning homer of a 5-2 win over the Los Angeles Angels.
That effort followed six shutout innings in a victory over Seattle.
“I said in spring training I want to be the guy to come over here and get this rotation going,” said Meche, who walked one and struck out six on Thursday. “It started with my first start. I’ve been on a good roll since.”
Meche has struggled against the A’s though, going 2-7 with a 4.56 ERA in 15 career games. The seven losses equal his most against any opponent.
Kansas City shook up its starting rotation Tuesday, sending Zack Greinke to the bullpen, but manager Buddy Bell hasn’t named a replacement yet. Royals right fielder Mark Teahen went 3-for-4 with an RBI in the series opener to extend his hitting streak to eight games, batting .387 during that stretch.