Baltimore (42-53) at Oakland (45-50)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Oakland, CA
Temp: 74° F
  • Game info: 10:05 pm EDT Fri Jul 20, 2007
  • TV: MASN2, KICU
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Erik Bedard hopes to shake off the effects of a stiff neck Friday night when he returns to the mound for the Baltimore Orioles in the opener of a three-game set with the struggling Oakland Athletics.

Bedard (8-4, 3.22 ERA), one of the few bright spots for Baltimore (42-52), was scratched from his scheduled outing on Wednesday after waking up Monday with a stiff neck. Daniel Cabrera started in his place and was tagged for five runs and eight hits in five innings of a 6-5 loss at Seattle as the Orioles dropped two of three in the series.

“When a guy is not able to throw in between starts like he is accustomed to doing,” said Orioles interim manager Dave Trembley, “I think you need to make an adjustment, and that’s what we did in order to stay on his routine.”

Bedard, the major league leader with 156 strikeouts in 20 starts, hopes the neck injury and the extra time off do not hamper his attempt to win his fifth consecutive decision for the first time since winning a career-best seven consecutive starts from June 16-July 23, 2006.

The hard-throwing left-hander has been impressive recently and improved to 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his last five outings by scattering three hits and striking out seven in seven innings of a 2-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox last Friday.

The superb performance extended his run of scoreless innings to 16. Bedard has not allowed a run in three of his last four starts, and the Orioles are 5-0 in his last five appearances.

“Just throwing a lot of strikes is the key. Throwing the first pitch strike helps a lot,” Bedard said.

Bedard, though, is 0-3 with a 4.66 ERA in six starts against Oakland, including two losses this season. He was better in his last outing against them on May 25, allowing three runs—two earned—and six hits with eight strikeouts in seven innings of a 3-2 loss.

Baltimore is 2-3 against Oakland this season—all at Camden Yards. The Orioles dropped two of three contests at McAfee Coliseum last season.

Oakland (45-50) is looking to build on a 6-0 win over Texas on Wednesday, halting a season-high nine-game losing streak and avoiding a sweep of a three-game series.

“It was a needed win for the team, a real nice win,” A’s manager Bob Geren said. “I couldn’t be happier with the entire performance today.”

The A’s hope Joe Blanton (8-6, 3.36) can create some momentum from the victory and avoid losing a career-high third consecutive start. The right-hander dropped his second outing in a row Saturday, yielding four runs and 10 hits in 7 2-3 innings of a 4-3 loss at Minnesota.

Blanton was roughed up in his last meeting with Baltimore on May 27, giving up eight runs and 10 hits—including three home runs—in six innings of an 8-4 defeat.

The Athletics are struggling offensively, batting just .177 and scoring 26 runs in their last 10 games. Oakland’s .251 batting average ranks among the worst teams in the AL.

Despite his team’s struggles, Shannon Stewart is hitting .391 (34-for-87) in his last 20 games. The left fielder, however, is only 2-for-12 (.167) lifetime against Bedard.

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Starting Pitchers

E. Bedard TB vs. J. Blanton LAA
13-5 Record 14-10
3.16 ERA 3.95
221 K 140
57 BB 40
1.09 WHIP 1.22

Scoreboard

Friday, Jul 20