Gonzalez looks to keep Red Sox off the board

April 20, 2011, 2:12 pm
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April 20, 2011

BOSTON (5-11) vs.
A's (9-8)

Coverage begins at 12:30 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

OAKLAND (AP) -- If a team is seeking an encore for a shutout, sending to the mound a pitcher riding a 17-inning scoreless streak isn't a bad way to do it.

That's just what the Oakland Athletics will do Wednesday afternoon, when Gio Gonzalez tries to pitch them to a two-game sweep of a Boston Red Sox club still seeking its first road win.

Oakland's .236 team batting average and 3.7 runs per game wouldn't normally be a recipe for victory, but the A's are 9-8 thanks to a major league-leading 2.44 staff ERA. Two of their starters - the same pair Boston (5-11) is facing in this series - boast ERAs below two.

Oakland starters have allowed just one earned run over their last five games - spanning 33 2-3 innings.

"It's fun when we're going good like that," said Brett Anderson, Tuesday's starter and winner. "We want to feed off each other and keep putting up zeros."

Anderson limited the Red Sox to four singles and one walk over eight innings of Oakland's series-opening 5-0 victory, lowering his ERA to 1.63. As impressive as that mark is, it's more than triple that of Gonzalez (2-0, 0.47 ERA), a 25-year-old left-hander who finished with 15 wins and a 3.23 ERA last season but may now be taking his game to a new level.

REWIND: Anderson's gem gives A's win over Boston

Gonzalez has thrown six shutout innings in each of his last two starts to extend his scoreless streak to 17. Five days after allowing four hits in a 1-0 win at Minnesota, he held Detroit to two hits Thursday but received no run support in a game Oakland eventually lost 3-0.

While he didn't beat the Tigers, he still impressed Detroit manager Jim Leyland.

"Their guy is really good," Leyland told the A's official website. "He has a good, loose arm, a live fastball and a good curve. I've seen him before, but that's as good as I've seen him."

If Gonzalez has a weakness, it may be control. He walked six and threw two wild pitches against the Tigers, and has issued 12 free passes in 19 innings this season.

Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis is 4 for 8 against Gonzalez.

Youkilis has been cold this April, though, batting .196 after an 0-for-4 effort with two strikeouts in the series opener. The Red Sox appeared to be heating up after concluding a nine-game homestand with three straight wins over Toronto, but suffered their second consecutive 1-0 road loss Tuesday.

The Red Sox are 0-7 on the road for the first time in franchise history, due largely to a .179 team batting average away from Fenway Park.

"We'll be all right," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "We might be the first team to lose our first seven on the road and win the next seven, who knows."

They haven't supported Wednesday's starter Clay Buchholz (0-2, 6.60) very well, totaling five runs for him in his three starts. However, Buchholz is still struggling to find the form he showed in a breakthrough 2010 season, when he finished 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA.

The right-hander allowed only three hits over five innings Friday, but walked five and yielded three runs while not earning a decision in a 7-6 loss to the Blue Jays.

Two of Buchholz's worst outings last season came at Oakland, where he went 0-2 and gave up 10 runs in five innings.

A's catcher Kurt Suzuki is 4 for 7 with a double off Buchholz, while designated hitter Hideki Matsui is 6 for 14 with three walks.

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