Series Preview: Oakland A's v. Baltimore Orioles

The Oakland A's head East for a rare road season opener, as they take on Miguel Tejada and the Baltimore Orioles. The A's and O's will be turning to Barry Zito and Rodrigo Lopez respectively to set the tone for the 2005 season.

When: April 4-April 7 (note that April 5 is an off-day)
Where: Orioles Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore

Series Overview: The A's-Orioles match-ups haven't been exactly even over the past two seasons. Since the start of the 2003 campaign, the A's have taken 14 of 16 games from the Orioles, including a perfect 7-0 record against the O's in 2004. However, with Orioles-killer Tim Hudson now in Atlanta, and former Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa wearing orange and black, this series could have a different feel in 2005.

Game One: Barry Zito vs. Rodrigo Lopez

2002 Cy Young winner Barry Zito makes his first Opening Day start on Monday afternoon against the Orioles. Zito is coming off of his worst major league season, as he went 11-11 with a career-high 4.48 ERA. However, the lefty ace is coming off of a strong spring and is looking to rebound with a strong season in 2005.

Although the Orioles have a right-handed heavy line-up – with sluggers Melvin Mora, Miguel Tejada, Sammy Sosa and Javy Lopez swinging from the right-side – that might actually work to Zito's advantage. Despite being left-handed, Zito struggled against lefties in 2004, allowing them to hit him at a .323 clip. He limited right-handers to a .248 BAA. Zito has had success against the Orioles starting nine. Jay Gibbons has had the most success against Zito during his career, going 3 for 10 lifetime. Rafael Palmeiro has been limited to 9 hits in 41 at-bats in his career against Zito and Mora has gone 3 for 19. Zito beat the Orioles in his only start against them last season.

Rodrigo Lopez is coming off of a solid season for the Orioles that saw him start the season in the bullpen and finish it as the Orioles best starter. Lopez went 14-9 on the campaign with a 3.59 ERA. The off-speed specialist must work the corners well and have great control to have success. Lopez allowed five runs in 10.2 innings pitched in two starts against Oakland last season. The Mexican right-hander has pitched well against Oriole-killer Eric Chavez (.618 OPS) but has struggled against fellow country-man Erubiel Durazo (1.012 OPS). Although Keith Ginter is likely to get the start against Lopez with the fly-ball pitcher Zito on the hill for the A's, Mark Ellis has good career numbers against Lopez, going 4 for 12 with two triples lifetime. The A's new catcher Jason Kendall will be seeing Lopez for the first time.

Game Two: Rich Harden vs. Daniel Cabrera

The A's new number two starter, Rich Harden, is scheduled to make his first start of the season on Wednesday, April 6. Harden may not make the start, however, as he is recovering from a blister on his throwing hand. The hard-throwing righty will determine whether or not he can go after a side-session on Monday. If he can't go, the A's fifth starter Kirk Saarloos will make the start instead.

Harden had only one start against the Orioles last season, but it was a memorable one. Harden dueled the Orioles Bruce Chen in a game that went into the bottom of the 9th inning at 0-0. Marco Scutaro ended up winning the game for Oakland with a walk-off, three-run homer off of B.J. Ryan. Harden went 8 innings in that game, allowing only four hits and one walk, while striking out five. He has limited the current Orioles hitters to 5 hits in 41 career at-bats. Harden will be seeing Sammy Sosa for the first time on Wednesday. If Saarloos faces the Orioles, he'll have to watch out for Slammin' Sammy, who has gone 3 for 7 against the A's righty lifetime.

Oakland will see young right-hander Daniel Cabrera on Wednesday. Cabrera went 12-8 with a 5.00 ERA in his rookie season. He was roughed up by the A's in his only start against them last season, as he lasted only 2.2 innings while allowing five runs and five walks. Cabrera is a promising young pitcher, but he struggled with his control last season. The patient Oakland line-up will test Cabrera's ability to throw strikes.

Game Three: Dan Haren vs. Erik Bedard

Neither the A's nor the Orioles have officially announced the starters for Thursday's game, but it is likely that Haren and Bedard (both expected to be their team's third starters) will square off. Haren will be making his Oakland and American League debuts in the game. The former St. Louis Cardinals prospect had a good spring and is opening his first season on a major league roster. The rangy right-hander has a fastball, cutter, splitter and a curve ball in his arsenal. He has never faced the Orioles before, and the only Oriole hitter he has faced is Sosa, who is 1 for 2 against Haren lifetime.

For a time this winter, it appeared that Erik Bedard might be pitching in the green and gold this season. Oakland and Baltimore had discussed a deal that would have sent Tim Hudson to the Orioles and Bedard (among other players) to Oakland. That deal fell through and the promising lefty is still with the Orioles. Bedard is now two years removed from Tommy John surgery and he spent most of last season with the Orioles, going 6-10 with a 4.59 ERA. Bedard had a decent outing against the A's last year, going six innings and allowing three runs. He struck out seven in that game. The A's will have the opportunity to trot out their right-handed hitting line-up against Bedard. Bobby Kielty may get the start in right-field, with Nick Swisher moving to first base in that alignment.

Notes:

Eric Chavez has feasted on Orioles pitching during his career and he particularly loves to hit at Camden Yards. Chavez's .325 mark against Baltimore is his best against any American League team.

Bobby Crosby has had a rough time against the black and orange. He is still looking for his first hit against the Orioles, having gone 0-17 last season and is 0-23 on his career against the O's. Crosby made his major league debut against Baltimore in September 2003.

Erubiel Durazo had a three-homer game against the Orioles at Camden Yards last season on August 18. The last of the three homers came off of lefty B.J. Ryan and was a game-winner. The A's were 14-5 last season when Durazo homered.


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