Dan Haren has turned into Oakland’s staff ace, and the Athletics are counting on him to end their longest losing streak of the season.
The Athletics look to shake a four-game slide Tuesday night when they continue their four-game series with the Cleveland Indians at Jacobs Field.
Oakland (39-36) lost 5-2 in Monday’s series opener and has managed only five runs during its losing streak. Cleveland starter C.C. Sabathia became the latest pitcher to shut down the Athletics’ offense, scattering nine hits against it.
Following the game, outfielder Nick Swisher wrote: “Team meeting, 5 p.m.” on the message board in the clubhouse.
“The other team is just scoring more runs than we do, so we lose,” Oakland first baseman Dan Johnson said. “It’s that simple. We’ve been running into some good pitching.”
The A’s haven’t won since the last time Haren (9-2, 1.78 ERA) started last Wednesday. Haren allowed three runs in seven innings of a 5-3 win over Cincinnati, but Oakland’s pitching has allowed 25 runs in the four games since.
Getting Haren, who owns the best ERA in baseball, back on the mound should be just what Oakland needs to get back on track. The right-hander, who allowed three earned runs for just the second time this season, has won his last three starts and nine consecutive decisions since a 2-1 road loss to the Los Angeles Angels on April 7.
“He’s just continuing to dominate games,” manager Bob Geren told Oakland’s official Web site. “He settled in and pitched like a true All-Star. He’s been pitching tremendous.”
However, Haren has struggled somewhat against the Indians and is 1-2 with a 6.45 ERA in four career starts against them. He lost both of his outings against Cleveland last season, allowing 12 runs in 10 1-3 innings.
The A’s draw a left-hander for the second straight game in Cleveland’s Cliff Lee (4-4, 5.46). Lee won his second straight start on June 18, allowing just one run in seven innings of a 10-1 win over Philadelphia in his longest start since May 8.
Lee struggled in his first eight starts of 2007 after he missed all of April with a strained right abdominal muscle, going 2-4 with a 6.11 ERA. He has not won three consecutive starts since matching his career high of four in a row from June 15-July 1, 2006.
“I didn’t do my job there for a while,” Lee said. “But now I’m starting to get where I want to be. Hopefully, I can carry this over and keep it rolling.”
Lee’s early problems included a shaky outing at Oakland on May 13, when he surrendered four runs and seven hits in five-plus innings without receiving a decision in Cleveland’s 10-7 loss. Lee has been dominant in three starts against the A’s (39-35) at Jacobs Field, going 2-0 with an 0.47 ERA, but has not faced them at home since May 27, 2005.
The Indians (44-31) won for the fifth time in eight games Monday. Travis Hafner, who hit a career-best 42 homers last season, connected for the first time in 68 at-bats since his last home run on May 31.
“I figured sooner or later I’d hit a home run,” said Hafner, who is batting just .219 since going 4-for-4 on April 23.