Diamondbacks-Athletics Preview

The Arizona Diamondbacks are stuck in a bit of a tailspin, but

their next starting pitcher has the history to start pulling them

out of it.

Joe Saunders will look to continue his dominance over Oakland as

the Diamondbacks continue their weekend interleague series with the

Athletics on Saturday night.

With a 5-4 defeat Friday, Arizona (44-39) has dropped five of

six and trails NL West-leading San Francisco by 2 1/2 games. The

Diamondbacks are hitting just .217, and their starting pitchers

have given up at least four runs four times on the way to a 5.12

ERA in the last six contests.

Rookie Josh Collmenter was the latest to fare poorly. He was lit

up for five runs and seven hits in just 4 2-3 innings, and has a

7.54 ERA while losing his last four outings.

“We came out kind of flat again, and there’s really no excuse

for that,” manager Kirk Gibson said. ”We have to do a better job.

We’ve struggled lately.”

Gibson will now look to Saunders (4-7, 4.14 ERA) to stop the

bleeding.

Saunders pitched five-plus seasons with the Los Angeles Angels

before Arizona acquired him in a trade involving Dan Haren last

July 25. Saunders’ 11 wins over Oakland are his most against any

opponent, and his two most recent outings against the A’s in 2010

were complete games. The left-hander yielded a total of one run and

11 hits while leading the Angels to a pair of wins.

Saunders, who is 5-1 with a 2.45 ERA in six games at Oakland

(37-46), surrendered one run and four hits while tying a season

high with eight strikeouts Sunday. However, he didn’t get a

decision in the Diamondbacks’ 8-3 loss at Detroit.

Kelly Johnson hit his 14th homer and Wily Mo Pena launched his

fourth on Friday for Arizona. Out of the majors since 2008, Pena

has six RBIs in 10 games since his recall from Triple-A Reno.

Looking to stay unbeaten at O.co Coliseum will be Oakland’s Josh

Outman (3-2, 3.10). After recovering from elbow surgery, the

left-hander has been reached for just two runs and 10 hits in 13

innings en route to wins over Baltimore and Kansas City.

Outman is coming off a loss after yielding three runs and a

season-high eight hits in six innings of a 3-1 defeat to

Philadelphia on Sunday.

“He started a little slow but from the third inning on, he

pitched a lot better,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said of the former

Phillies draft pick.

Outman beat the Diamondbacks in his only previous appearance

against them. He gave up two runs and four hits in 7 2-3 innings of

Oakland’s 6-2 win on May 24, 2009.

Rich Harden pitched six solid innings in his season debut and

Hideki Matsui’s two-run single capped a four-run fifth inning

Friday for Oakland. The A’s improved to 10-10 since Melvin took

over for the fired Bob Geren last month, but are still last in the

AL West and 3 1/2 games behind third-place Seattle.

Stuck in a 2 for 17 slump, Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki is 2 for

28 (.071) with a solo homer all-time against Saunders.