C.C. Sabathia insists he won’t be as nervous pitching near his hometown this time around.
Sabathia (5-0, 3.45 ERA), a native of Vallejo, Calif. grew up cheering for the A’s. In six career starts in Oakland, however, Sabathia is 1-2 with a 6.97 ERA.
“I’ve just tried to make it a big game,” he told the Indians’ official Web site. “I need to just go out there and do the things I always do.”
Sabathia, who 1-4 with a 6.40 ERA in 10 career starts against the A’s, said pitching in Oakland now is “not as big a deal as it used to be.” He’ll be taking a lot of momentum into this contest, as he is off to his first 5-0 start and ranks second in the AL with 53 strikeouts.
The left-hander gave up just three runs in seven innings of Sunday’s 9-6 win at Baltimore and has lasted at least six innings in all of his seven starts - each of which the Indians have won.
“Everybody keeps saying we haven’t played our best baseball yet, and we still have a great record and are off to a great start,” Sabathia said. “I’m encouraged by that. If we start clicking, we’ll be a dangerous team.”
Sabathia will be looking to shut down an Oakland team that won 17-3 at Kansas City on Thursday, setting season-highs in runs, hits (18) and homers (6).
“It couldn’t have been a better day for us,” A’s rookie manager Bob Geren said. “That’s the best offensive attack of the year … It didn’t seem like we were going to stop scoring. We were seeing the ball good.”
Dan Johnson and Jack Cust each homered twice, Danny Putnam hit his first major league home run and Eric Chavez also connected for Oakland, which boosted its batting average six points to .244, but still ranks near the bottom of the league in that category.
“They say hitting is contagious,” Cust said. “It started rolling early and didn’t stop. We never let up, so that’s the key. You get teams down, especially a young team you want to take advantage of and keep going.”
The A’s, who have won three of four, are starting a 10-game homestand, while the Indians are opening the final series of a 10-game road trip. Cleveland has dropped four of seven, including Thursday’s 8-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels.
“Offensively, we’re nowhere near what we’re capable of doing as a ballclub right now,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “So we just need to keep grinding it out.”
Cleveland will face Joe Blanton (3-1, 3.61), who allowed three runs and a career high-tying 11 hits in 7 1-3 innings of Sunday’s 5-3 win at Tampa Bay. He has gone at least six innings in all but one of his seven starts and has not allowed more than four runs in any.
“My sinker’s working pretty well right now, so I’m really trying to pound that into the zone,” he told Oakland’s official Web site. “I think that’s a big reason I’m going to the seventh inning and later.”
Blanton has lost both of his previous starts against the Indians, allowing seven runs in 12 innings. In his only start against them last season, he gave up six runs and 10 hits in five innings of an 11-2 road loss on June 7.