Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Oakland A's

After a 3-3 road-trip, the Oakland A's head home for a three-game set against the Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays come into Oakland with a 4-2 record, having just taken two of three games from the defending champion Boston Red Sox. The A's will send Kirk Saarloos to the hill to square off with Gustavo Chacin in the home opener.

Who:Toronto Blue Jays (4-2) vs. Oakland A's (3-3)
Where: McAfee Coliseum
When: April 11-13, 2005

Series Preview: The A's come home after an up and down road-trip that saw them take two of three from the Baltimore Orioles and then lose two of three to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Starter Barry Zito was raked in both of his outings on the trip, but the rest of the A's pitching staff was stellar. Zito was responsible for 15 runs (12 earned), while the rest of the staff allowed five runs. The A's new and improved bullpen has allowed only one run in 19.2 innings of work.

With the exception of Saturday's game, the A's offense has consistently gotten runners on base, but the A's have had a difficult time hitting with runners in scoring position. During Friday night's game, the A's blew three opportunities to score a runner from third with less than two outs. This continues a trend for the A's that haunted them last season. Centerfielder Mark Kotsay has gotten off to a torrid start, hitting safely in all six games and posted a .458 batting average. Designated hitter Erubiel Durazo is off to a tepid start, hitting .167 over the season's first week.

The Blue Jays are off to a strong beginning to their season, a year after they finished dead last in the American League East. Toronto was one 8th inning bullpen meltdown away from sweeping the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and they played extremely well against the Boston Red Sox over the weekend to take two of three from the defending champs. A revitalized Eric Hinske has led the Blue Jays offense, which is off to a hot start. Toronto is hitting .284 as a team. The Blue Jays had back-to-back-to-back homeruns off of Boston's David Wells on Saturday. Roy Halladay and Ted Lilly are healthy and pitching effectively at the top of a strong, young Toronto rotation. Former starter Miguel Batista has been moved to the bullpen and is now the team's closer.

Game One: Gustavo Chacin vs. Kirk Saarloos

Kirk Saarloos makes his second start of the season on Monday. Saarloos was outstanding during his first start, a six inning, shutout performance against the Baltimore Orioles. Saarloos picked up the win in that start. The A's right-hander lost his only start against Toronto last season. Saarloos was done in by a four-run, fourth inning, an inning that ended an 14.2 scoreless inning streak. Both Vernon Wells and Frank Cattalanatto have homered off of Saarloos.

The A's will be seeing the young left-hander Gustavo Chacin for the first time on Monday. Chacin had a solid first start this season, picking up the win against the Devil Rays. Chacin allowed only one run in five innings of work against Tampa Bay. He relies primarily on a low-90s fastball and a change-up. He has a mediocre curveball, as well. Chacin has been historically tough on right-handers despite being left-handed.

Game Two: Josh Towers vs. Dan Haren

Dan Haren will make his second start as a member of the A's rotation on Tuesday. The rangy right-hander had a strong debut last week against the Baltimore Orioles. After allowing a lead-off homerun to Brian Roberts, Haren buckled down and yielded only two more hits and three walks over six innings of work. He received a no-decision in a game that the A's eventually won, 5-1. Haren has never faced the Blue Jays before, but he has allowed a three-run homerun to Gregg Zaun. Zaun is the only current Blue Jay who has ever had a hit off of Haren.

The A's have seen their fill of Toronto starter Josh Towers. Towers was outstanding against the A's in two starts last season, allowing only three runs in 14.1 innings pitched. The right-hander is a classic finesse pitcher who works the corners and mixes in a fastball, curveball, change-up and slider. Despite last season's struggles, the A's have had some historical success against Towers. Eric Chavez and Erubiel Durazo have been especially successful. Chavez is 7-13 in his career against Towers with two homers. Durazo is 4-8 with a homer in his career against Towers.

Game Three: David Bush vs. Joe Blanton

Joe Blanton makes his major league start number two on Thursday. Blanton was inconsistent in his first major league start. He struggled with his command and didn't have his best stuff against the Devil Rays. Despite all of that, Blanton battled through to limit the Devil Rays to two runs in five innings of work. The big right-hander is a tough competitor and he demonstrated his toughness in his first start. He has never seen any of the Blue Jays hitters at the major league level before.

David Bush had one of the best starts of 2004 against the A's last season. The stylish right-hander had a no-hitter going against the A's until catcher Damian Miller broke it up in the 8th inning. Unfortunately for Bush, Rich Harden was almost as effective as he was and he matched Bush's zeros inning by inning. The A's eventually won the game 1-0 in the 14th inning on a base-loaded single by Miller. Bush has a low-90s fastball and a good curveball. He has historically had trouble against left-handed hitters, so look for the A's lefty heavy line-up on Wednesday. Bush lost his first start of the season against the Boston Red Sox on Friday, when he allowed three runs in five innings.

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