While Barry Bonds has often been treated rudely by Oakland Athletics’ fans during his visits for the Bay Bridge Series, it remains to be seen what kind of reception Barry Zito will get when he returns to McAfee Coliseum with the San Francisco Giants.
Zito will face his former team for the first time when he pitches on the other end of the rivalry Friday night in Oakland.
The 2002 Cy Young Award winner spent his first seven seasons with the A’s before he signed a seven-year, $126 million contract - the largest a pitcher has ever received - to join their Bay Area rivals. Zito (3-4, 4.29 ERA) understands that he may not be greeted warmly in his return.
“If they have to boo me,” the left-hander said, “that just shows what good fans they are.”
Zito, who helped the A’s make the playoffs five times, is the winningest active pitcher at McAfee Coliseum with a 51-30 record and 3.66 ERA in 110 career starts.
“He deserves to be cheered for and appreciated,” Oakland third baseman Eric Chavez said. “He’s done some good things here.”
Zito returns hoping to overcome his recent interleague struggles, going 2-7 with a 3.46 ERA in 10 such starts since June 20, 2004.
He enters after losing a second straight road start, surrendering six runs over six innings of a 6-2 defeat on Saturday at Colorado. Zito did not record a strikeout for only the second time in 230 career starts and gave up four first-inning runs after allowing only one all season.
“Zito’s rhythm’s in the first inning was (off),” Giants first-year manager Bruce Bochy said. “He settled down and got into a pretty good groove there.”
The Giants hope Bonds, traditionally the recipient of McAfee Coliseum’s loudest jeers, can find his groove. Bonds is hitting .105 (2-for-19) without a homer or RBI in his last seven games. He has walked 11 times, though, for a .433 on-base percentage in this span.
Bonds, who remains 10 homers away from tying Hank Aaron’s all-time record of 755, will likely play as the designated hitter on Friday, but could see action in left field later in the series. He has batted .247 (24-for-97) with nine homers in 33 games playing as the designated hitter, and he has hit .300 (24-for-80) with eight homers in his 25 appearances in Oakland.
“We’ll be careful,” A’s first-year manager Bob Geren said of pitching to Bonds.
The Giants won for the third time in 10 road games after a 2-1 win on Thursday at Houston. They avoided a three-game sweep when Randy Winn plated Pedro Feliz with a two-out infield single in the 12th inning.
The A’s converted right-hander Chad Gaudin (2-1, 2.93) from a reliever into a starter this season to help make up for Zito’s absence.
Gaudin starts Friday after making his shortest start of the year. He allowed five runs and eight hits in 4 2-3 innings, but he did not receive a decision as the A’s scored five ninth-inning runs in a 10-7 home win over Cleveland on Sunday.
“It’s tough to think about what happened to me,” Gaudin told the A’s official web site. “What happened in the game was so tremendous.”
The A’s followed by losing three of four at home to lowly Kansas City, capped by Thursday’s 7-4 defeat.
Gaudin’s only appearance against San Francisco was on May 21, when he gave up an unearned run, a hit and three walks in three relief innings of a 6-0 Giants’ win.
The A’s have the second-best all-time interleague record at 103-73, trailing only the New York Yankees’ 103-71 mark, but Oakland was only 8-10 against the NL last season. The Bay Area teams each won two of three on the road in 2006 to split the Bay Bridge Series, which the A’s lead 29-27.