Game Preview: A's vs. Cubs - June 19, 2004

The A's and Cubs series was billed as a dream match-up between two of the game's best starting rotations. The first game of the series did not disappoint, as Mark Redman and Matt Clement both tossed excellent games. Saturday's game promises to be a beauty for pitching-lovers as well, as aces Mark Prior and Mark Mulder take the hill.

Oakland Athletics (38-27) W-1 v. Chicago Cubs (37-30) L-1
Date: June 19, 2004
Time: 10:05 P.S.T.
Place: Wrigley Field – Chicago, IL

The A's restored some stability and sanity with Friday's 2-1 heart-pounding win over the streaking Chicago Cubs. An advantage for Oakland coming into this game was that there was not much time for the players to reflect on their previous night's disappointment as they arrived at Wrigley Field less than twelve hours after walking off the field at Busch Stadium in the bottom of the ninth inning. Mark Kotsay (1 HR, 2 RBI), Mark Redman (8 IP, 0 ER), and Chad Bradford (Save) all played the role of hero for Oakland as the offense did just enough to support the pitching staff's brilliant performance. While Bradford is probably not the long-term solution for the closer role, he sure made it look easy by retiring Chicago's 2-3-4 hitters in order.

If Friday's game is any indication of the quality of both of these team's pitching staffs, then get ready for a great pitching dual on Saturday as Mark Mulder faces off against Mark Prior. The case could be made that these are the two best, young starters in the majors as they both could have been 2003 Cy Young Award winners had they both not had to spent time on the disabled list. Prior suffered an Achilles Tendon injury during Spring Training and is making only his fourth start of the season, while Mulder has yet to miss a start despite also sitting out parts of Spring Training. Some offensive players to look out for in this game are Kotsay, who is hitting .425 with 3 HR and 8 RBI in his last ten games, and Chicago's Derrek Lee, who is batting .433 with 1 HR and 6 RBI in his last eight contests. Mark McLemore was not with the team for the first game of the series as he attended to a family commitment and the A's are not sure if he will be back for Saturday's game. Reliever Arthur Rhodes should be back from attending a family funeral in time for the game.

Pitching Matchup:
Oakland – Mark Mulder, LHP (8-2, 2.97 ERA) Chicago – Mark Prior, RHP (1-1, 3.07 ERA)


Mark Prior: Prior's last start on Monday was also a marquee match-up, as he out-dueled future Hall-of-Famer Roger Clemens by throwing five shut-out innings. Only one of his three starts this year was bad, as he was touched up by St. Louis for 5 runs in only 3.2 innings on June 9th. In his other two starts, Prior did not allow a run in a combined 11 innings and struck out 16 batters while only allowing 7 hits. In order to beat Prior, the A's must be disciplined at the plate, as he tends to walk batters when he's off (5 walks against St. Louis) and has yet to throw 100 pitches this year.

Mark Mulder: Mulder is in one of his patented grooves, as he has a 6-0 record in his last 7 starts and his only no-decision was 3-2 win over the White Sox, where he left after the seventh inning having only allowed two runs. Although this is not expected for Saturday's ballgame, Mulder has enjoyed some major run support in four of his last five starts (excluding the White Sox game) as the offense has scored 7, 15, 13, and 13 runs for him respectively. He currently ranks 4th in the American League in innings pitched with 94, 2nd in the AL with a 1.11 WHIP, and 2nd in the AL in opponents' batting average at .221. On the road this year, Mulder is 3-2 with a 2.97 ERA in 5 starts including a complete game, one-run effort at Kansas City.

Pitcher-Batter Matchup:
Mulder v.:
Lee, D – 3 for 3 – 1 RBI
Martinez, R – 2 for 7 – 1 2B, 1 RBI
Walker, T – 0 for 3
Ramirez, A – 0 for 3
Goodwin, T – 1 for 3 – 2 K

Prior v.:
Kotsay, M – 0 for 3 – 2 K
McLemore, M – 0 for 3 – 1 K

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