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Series Preview: Oakland Athletics

The Enemy: Oakland Athletics

Athletics Record: 15-13, 2nd Place in AL West (1.5 GB)

Series Location: Oakland Coliseum-Oakland

All-Time Series:
Overall-OAK; 22-53
Road-OAK; 6-30
Last Season-RAYS; 5-4
Last Season Road-OAK; 0-3
Rays WP% against OAK is lowest vs any AL Team

Series Dates:

Today-10:05; NO TV
Saturday-4:05; FSN Florida
Sunday-4:05; RAYS TV/PAX

Series Pitching Matchups

Today

RAYS-LH Scott Kazmir (3-2, 3.72)

OAK-RH Joe Blanton (3-2, 6.14)

Tomorrow

RAYS-RH Seth McClung (1-4, 7.67)

OAK-LH Barry Zito (2-2, 4.63)

Sunday

RAYS-LH Mark Hendrickson (1-2, 2.66)

OAK-LH Brad Halsey (1-0, 2.50)

Series Prediction-Rays take one of three

The Enemy: Oakland Athletics

Athletics Record: 15-13, 2nd Place in AL West (1.5 GB)

Series Location: Oakland Coliseum-Oakland

All-Time Series:
Overall-OAK; 22-53
Road-OAK; 6-30
Last Season-RAYS; 5-4
Last Season Road-OAK; 0-3
Rays WP% against OAK is lowest vs any AL Team

  1. 6-5
  2. 1-9
  3. 2-7
  4. 2-7
  5. 1-8
  6. 3-6
  7. 2-7
Series Dates:

Today-10:05; NO TV
Saturday-4:05; FSN Florida
Sunday-4:05; RAYS TV/PAX

Series Pitching Matchups

Today

RAYS-LH Scott Kazmir (3-2, 3.72)

OAK-RH Joe Blanton (3-2, 6.14)

Tomorrow

RAYS-RH Seth McClung (1-4, 7.67)

OAK-LH Barry Zito (2-2, 4.63)

Sunday

RAYS-LH Mark Hendrickson (1-2, 2.66)

OAK-LH Brad Halsey (1-0, 2.50)

Series History-It is not a flattering one. The Rays hate to see the Athletics, and the west coast in general, winning only 20 games on the left coast as opposed to 40 losses in franchise history. They are even worse against Oakland, 6-30 in the Coliseum, having never won a series there, and 22-53 all-time, their lowest winning percentage against another AL team.

However the Rays have had a few highlights against the A's in franchise history, sweeping a four games set at home against Oakland in 1998, and compiling a winning record against the A's, something that they would not do again until last season.

On September 11th, 1999, Dan Wheeler struck out 12 A's batters in six innings in just his third major league game, though the Rays still lost 4-5.

In 2000, the Rays actually had a game with the A's postponed at home because of the presence of Hurricane Gordon north of the area. It was the first game delayed in a dome for 17 years.

In 2001, the Rays lose a 13 inning affair by a 4-3 final on September 9th, the only time these two ballclubs had gone into extra innings until last year.

In 2002, the Rays won just one game against the A's, by just one run.

There were three memorable games in 2003 against Oakland, starting off with a 9-3 win on July 8th against the A's, which is the last time the Rays have won a game in Oakland. The next one came on August 31st, when Rays pitcher Jeremi Gonzalez threw a complete game effort in a 4-3 loss, and was ejected in the dugout following the Oakland half of the ninth inning, becoming the only major league pitcher to ever throw a complete game and be ejected. And on September 7th, the Rays snapped a streak of 15 consecutive losing series' against Oakland by winning only their second in franchise history against Oakland as Victor Zambrano bests Barry Zito in just the second time two pitchers with a last name starting with 'Z' have matched up in MLB history.

The year 2005 featured some good moments against the A's, as the Rays won five of six against Oakland at home. In the two teams' first meeting in the fourth game of the season on the 8th of April, Joey Gathright singles into center field to drive in the winning run as the Rays win a 3-2 final in extra innings. The Rays would win 11-2 the next day before dropping the series finale, their only home loss to Oakland that year. On May 25th, the Rays score 10 runs in the first inning and notch six extra base hits as they rout Oakland 14-6. The pitcher during that inning? Tonight's starter, Joe Blanton. The two were records for the Rays, the most runs in the first inning and the most extra base hits in an inning period, and the 10 runs in the first is one short of the Rays record for any inning, which was 11. The next day, the Rays defeat Oakland 2-1 to sweep just their second ever series against the A's. And on May 30th, the Rays and Oakland play a 5-4, 11 inning affair won by the A's in Oakland that marked the major league debut of Chad Orvella.

Scouting Report-The A's come into this series with high expectations. They are a lot of people's World Series picks (including mine), though are off to their usual slow start, only two games over .500 through 28 games. Still, they are 2.5 games ahead of the third place Angels, considered their biggest division title rival for this season, however they have been surpasses in the standings by the Texas Rangers, who have rode a hot start to a 17-13 record.

The A's put some distance between themselves and Anaheim earlier this week by sweeping a two games set from the Halos, and split a series with the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday and Thursday. T their credit, the A's have not had an easy schedule thus far. They have played the Yankees, Twins, Rangers, Tigers, Angels, and Indians thus far this season, so 15-13 might not be that bad. Certainly if you are in contention, you will have to do better than that, but they are many games back in the division like Atlanta, and they always do better in the second half, so I'm sticking with my pick.

The A's have also been hurt by injuries to their pitching staff, as Esteban Loaiza, Rich Harden, and Jay Witasick have all hit the DL for various reasons. Thus the A's as a team have put up a 4.75 ERA, not even in the top half of the AL at number eight. That pales in comparison to its hitting, which has been absolutely terrible. The A's are last in the AL with a .236 team batting average, but are eighth and tenth in OBP and SLG, respectively. They are middle of the pack in most other offensive stats. So with the pitching and hitting ranging from middle of the pack to bad, I'd say 15-13 isn't bad. I believe the A's will come around on both fronts, they just have too much talent not to.

On top of all this, a few A's have not been performing up to standard. Nick Swisher and Eric Chavez are single-handedly carrying the team's offense, as no player with more than 21 at bats has a batting average higher than .260, and Milton Bradley is the only player with an OPS higher than .710 among A's regulars. Chavez, .317/.403/.617, has been a stalwart in the A's offense for years, the only position player on the roster over the years whom Oakland has locked up and not allowed to become a free agent, and it is paying off. Swisher, meanwhile, after getting of to a horrible start last year, is hitting .330/.422/.722 to help carry the A's offense. Chavez and Swisher also have 10 home runs each, and their 20 combined home runs is tied for the first among duos in the major leagues, along with Jonny Gomes and Ty Wigginton. The two have also combined for 54 RBI, the second best among ML duos, with Gomes and Wigginton third.

As for the pitching, few individual stars have shone bright this year. Joe Kennedy, Justin Duchscherer, and Brad Halsey have combined to pitch effectively out of the bullpen. Kennedy, the former Ray traded away in the Mark Hendrickson trade, is not the only ex-Ray in the Oakland bullpen, as Chad Gaudin, also traded in a deal involving Toronto, was recently called up from Triple A Sacramento. Rich Harden was the only starter that even could be termed half-competent, and he was injured. Barry Zito and his 4.63 ERA continue to reek, and it is looking more and more like the A's kept the runt of the Big Three. Danny Haren, Joe Blanton, and Esteban Loaiza have all been terrible, and Loaiza was mercifully injured. So the Athletics aren't an 'A' team (ha ha ha, funny pun) right now, but they have got the pieces to put it together, and the season is only 1/5 done, so the A's have time to turn it around. Let's just hope the Rays don't mark the turning point.

Series Outlook-Friday's game features the only pitching matchup that has blatantly favored the Rays in some time. Scott Kazmir has just out and out been so much better than Joe Blanton this season, and with Julio Lugo and Aubrey Huff expected to return for that game, you've got to think the offense will be somewhat better. If the Rays win a game this series, I'm placing my money on that one.

I am less sure about Games 2 and 3. I am not getting any vibes one way or the other like I did about McClung's start a week and half ago in New York. McClung made his best start of the season last time out on Monday against New York, and he has a penchant for having a letdown start after a great one. The key for him is to not get complacent and to go out there with full use of his arsenal. He must locate his pitches and get movement on his breaking stuff, and for god's sake, lay off the fastball. It is a good pitch, yes, but these are major league hitters. You can't throw it ten straight times. As for Barry Zito, he has proven that he is no longer the Cy Young winner of old. He is hittable, although the Rays will actually need some hitting to accomplish that, as the Rays have scored just 12 in their last four games, including one shutout. And these weren't shutdown pitching staffs, these were the Yankees and Rangers.

Sunday features two good pitchers on paper, low ERAs, and you think it will be the best matchup of the series, until you see that the two names are Mark Hendrickson and Brad Halsey. Halsey could go either way, and so could Hendrickson. Will the Lurch of old show up and give up 10 hits and strike out two? Or will we see the new, improved Hendrickson who controls his own fate can gets hitters out quickly. That game is a total toss-up in my mind.

Other factors need to be considered as well in this series. A cross country travel venture isn't exactly a non factor, and how Lugo and Huff perform when they return from injury is anybody's guess. There are a lot of unknowns going into this series, but a good bet is that we win at least won and break our slide. After all, I can't believe it will be another three years before we win in Oakland.

Series Prediction-Rays take one of three