Game Preview: A's vs. Cubs - June 20, 2004

The A's will try to recover from yet another stunning come from ahead loss, as they take on the Cubs and try to salvage a series win and a 2-4 roadtrip.

Oakland Athletics (38-28) L-1 v. Chicago Cubs (38-30) W-1

Date: June 20, 2004
Time: 11:20 P.S.T.
Place: Wrigley Field - Chicago, IL

Preview:
Help Wanted: Bullpen, Oakland Athletics baseball team. Job Description: Throw strikes, get opposing batters out, and please show up to the ballpark when expected.

It would not be surprising if after yesterday's 14th blown save of the year, Oakland manager Ken Macha submitted this ad to classified sections around the world in a desperate plea for some much needed help. After Macha observed that Mulder left "his heart and soul on the field," Chad Bradford entered in the ninth inning and proceeded to get one out before wasting Oakland's hard earned one-run lead in an all too familiar scene for A's players and fans. The bullpen was already causing problems before the game when Arthur Rhodes informed Macha that he was on an afternoon flight so he would not be able to get to the field in time for Saturday's game. This predicament proved costly as Bradford probably would not have had to face left-handed batters Todd Hollandsworth and Todd Walker who hit back-to-back singles. All five games of this road trip have been separated by one run in the seventh inning (Oakland leading in four of them) and the bullpen has played a major role in the resulting 1-4 record.

Today's rubber-match will feature 2002 Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito against Chicago's young phenom, Carlos Zambrano. Zambrano is a tough draw for the A's as he is 4-0 in five starts at home with a 1.66 ERA and has averaged 7.2 innings pitched. Oakland's offense had a surprising hero on Saturday as utility infielder Esteban German (.179 batting average) provided a two-run, two-out triple off Mark Prior in the fourth inning. With the bullpen continuously failing to get the job done, the offense will need to come up with some more extra-base hits if they are to come away victorious today.

Pitching Matchup:

Oakland - Barry Zito, LHP (4-3, 4.67 ERA)
Chicago - Carlos Zambrano (7-2, 2.32 ERA)

Comments:
Carlos Zambrano: Featuring a nasty two-seam fastball, a slider, and a splitter, Zambrano creates a lot of movement on his pitches which gets him a lot of groundballs and strikeouts (81, 8th in the NL). He is pitching very well lately as he has a 3-0 record in his last four starts and has only given up 4 runs while averaging 7 innings pitched in that span. In his last start at Houston, he labored through six innings but was effective when he needed to be and managed to hold the Astros to only two runs despite walking four batters and allowing six hits. Although he is susceptible to allowing runners to reach base, his ability to induce groundballs and strikeouts help him limit the damage.

Barry Zito: Zito is the latest of the revered Oakland starting pitching staff that will need to emulate the recent performances of Hudson, Redman, and Mulder for the A's to pull out the win today. Although Zito has not lost a decision in his last eight starts (2-0 record), his most recent two outings have been fairly average. On June 8th against Cincinnati, Zito nearly blew an early 5-1 lead by allowing 5 earned runs in only 5 innings pitched as he allowed 8 hits, 2 homeruns, and was forced to throw 109 pitches. His last start at St. Louis was a little better as he only allowed 2 earned runs in five innings, but he could not find his command as he gave up 7 hits and tied his season high with 5 walks. When Zito is on, he throws a mean 12-6 curveball and a good changeup that makes his high 80's fastball seem much faster than it really is. Zito is a streaky pitcher and there is no better time for the A's than today for him to start a new hot streak.

Pitcher v. Batter Matchup:
Zito v:
Grudzielanek, M - 0 for 3 - 1 K
Macias, J - 0 for 3
Walker, T - 0 for 1 - 1 BB
Martinez, R - 0 for 1 - 1 K

Zambrano v.:
Karros, E - 3 for 3 - 1 2B, 1 RBI
Durazo, E - 1 for 2 - 1 3B, 1 RBI, 1 BB
Kotsay, M - 1 for 6 - 2 K

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