Weekend pitching preview: A's at Yankees

Originally Published: June 8, 2006
ESPN.com

BASEBALL TONIGHT EXTRA

The walking-wounded Yankees get a little breather from the AL East this weekend as the Oakland Athletics come to the Bronx. Oakland has won six of its last eight as the AL West has evolved into a "Who wants to win this thing?" kind of race. There is a feeling that the Athletics will wait as long as possible to get a feel for this team before making any decisions about late-season trades. For now, Texas has control, but Oakland can get a nice confidence boost with a strong performance this weekend against an injury-depleted opponent.

Friday, 7:05 ET: Dan Haren vs. Randy Johnson
The Athletics are 3-9 at Yankee Stadium over the last three season. Oakland has won Haren's last three starts against the Yankees. Looking for Jason Giambi to make an impact against his former team? He's hitting .250 against the Athletics but is only 2-19 with an RBI against them this season. Johnson (7-4, 5.33) is unbeaten in his last four starts, but he has a combined 5.79 ERA in those four outings.

Saturday, 1:05 ET: Kirk Saarloos vs. Mike Mussina
Mussina hasn't lost to the Athletics since May 1, 2002, having won his last three decisions against them. Saarloos is familiar with pitching at Yankee Stadium. Some may remember his being part of the Astros' six-pitcher no-hitter in the Bronx on June 11, 2003. Saarloos tossed 1 1-3 innings of hitless relief in that contest, sandwiched between Pete Munro and Brad Lidge.

Sunday, 1:05 ET: Barry Zito vs. Shawn Chacon
Twenty-eight active pitchers have made at least eight starts at Yankee Stadium. Zito happens to be tied for the fewest wins by any of those, with just one (he shares the distinction with current injured Yankee Carl Pavano). Chacon is 3-0 with a 3.86 ERA in his last five starts, but this will be his first since May 16.

THOSE ENIGMATIC REDS

Right now the Reds are one of the hottest teams in baseball, and it's extremely hard to pinpoint why that is after poring over their stats. They are one of the worst defensive teams in the league, they don't pitch particularly well and they strike out too much. That isn't the normal recipe for success in baseball.

Somehow this team has been able to thrive without any of the normal ingredients for a great season. The Reds have a lot of power in their lineup and can hit the ball out of the park from anywhere in their lineup. Heck, even Bronson Arroyo has a couple dingers this season. Cincy's pitching staff understands what it needs to do to win games. They know they can give up five runs and still get a W because the offense is capable of putting up eight or nine runs.

This team plays with confidence. Every time they step on the field, they believe they are going to win. They smartly imported a couple of veterans who'd been in winning situations before, such as Rich Aurilia, Scott Hatteberg and Eric Milton. Those are guys who've been in the playoffs and know what sacrifices it takes to get there.

If this team keeps up its unorthodox, winning ways, we could see those three veterans in another postseason series.

Albert Pujols
Pujols
Life without Albert

The Cardinals find themselves without Albert Pujols in the lineup, and they're in a battle with the Reds. Some people will tell you that Pujols' absence is going to put a lot of pressure on the offense, but I completely disagree.

This is a good offense even without Pujols, so the real pressure is going to fall upon the pitching staff. There's no way to fully replace a guy like Pujols in any season, especially with the astonishing numbers he was putting up before his injury. The pitching staff has to step up and realize they aren't guaranteed a couple of extra runs per game without Pujols' bat in the lineup.

Chris Carpenter is back and seems to have great stuff, but Mark Mulder, Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis have been borderline awful. St. Louis has to get rid of the mindset that it can allow five or six runs and still win.

ELIAS SAYS
• The Tigers, who went 71-91 last season, increased their record to 38-22 with their win over the White Sox. In the last 50 years only two other teams have won as many of their first 60 games as the Tigers after finishing at least 20 games under .500 the previous season. The 1993 Phillies started 43-17 after going 70-92 in 1992 and the 2001 Twins began 39-21 after going 69-93 in 2000.

More from Elias

FORWARD THINKING: FRIDAY
Javier VazquezIndians at White Sox, 8:35 ET: Javier Vazquez (7-3, 4.14) is tied for the White Sox's team lead in victories, and is also unbeaten in his last four home starts. Cliff Lee (4-5, 5.17) is winless in five road starts, and has just 15 strikeouts in 30 innings pitched in those five outings.

Dodgers at Rockies, 9:05 ET: Brad Penny (6-1, 2.62) is coming off perhaps his best start of the season in his last outing as he allowed just one hit in tossing six shutout innings in a win over the Phillies. Hitters are batting a healthy .292 against Byung-Hyun Kim (3-3, 4.97), who has given up three home runs in his last two starts.

Friday's probables

THURSDAY'S NEWS AND NOTES
Mark Prior • Cubs RHP Mark Prior allowed three runs and four hits in five innings of a rehab start for Double-A West Tennessee. He struck out four, walked two batters and did not allow a hit after the second inning.

• Phillies LHP Randy Wolf pitched three innings in his first minor league rehab start since being sidelined by an elbow injury last season. Wolf allowed one unearned run and two hits pitching for Class-A Clearwater against the Sarasota Reds. He struck out two and walked three.

PHOTO OF THE DAY
Damian Jackson
The Nationals' Damian Jackson goes way back to make a leaping grab against the Phillies.
TOP PERFORMERS
David DeJesus went 3-for-5 with four RBI and three runs in Kansas City's 16-12 come-from-behind victory over the Rangers.

• RHP Curt Schilling went eight innings and allowed four hits (three of them home runs) as the Red Sox beat the Yanks 9-3. He became the AL's first nine-game winner.

• In the Nats' 5-2 victory against the Phillies, Alfonso Soriano had two walks, a hit by pitch, a stolen base and a seventh-inning solo homer to left, his 23rd of the season.

Lance Berkman homered twice to lead the Astros to a 7-4 victory over the slumping Braves. Berkman had a solo shot and a three-run blast, his second multihomer game of the season and 16th of his career.

• Mets RHP Orlando Hernandez pitched masterfully against the D-Backs, taking a shutout into the ninth and finishing with a three-hitter for his ninth career complete game and first since Sept. 16, 2000.

• After a shaky start, Tigers LHP Kenny Rogers settled down to retire 17 straight White Sox batters in seven strong innings.