Diamondbacks-Athletics Preview

The Oakland Athletics and Arizona Diamondbacks may not garner

the biggest daily national headlines, but Gio Gonzalez and Ian

Kennedy are each quietly putting together impressive campaigns with

their respective teams.

Coming off perhaps his best outing of the year, Gonzalez takes

the mound for Oakland in Sunday’s series finale hoping to continue

his stellar stretch while Arizona’s Kennedy looks to stay

undefeated on the road.

The Diamondbacks (45-39), who entered Saturday losers of five of

six, defeated the Athletics 4-2 behind seven strong innings from

Joe Saunders and an offensive explosion from Chris Young, who drove

in all four runs and finished a triple shy of the cycle.

“His (batting practice) has been better and we’ve just been

waiting to see it come out of the sessions in the cage,” manager

Kirk Gibson said of Young. “He’s just learned to slow it down, let

the ball come to him and use his quick hands. He’s not a big guy

… but he’s very powerful.”

Young, a career .243 hitter, is 12 for 29 with three homers

lifetime against Oakland and is batting .290 versus AL opponents

this season. He could be hard-pressed for more success Sunday given

the way Gonzalez (7-5, 2.38 ERA) has performed of late.

Over his last three starts spanning 21 innings, Gonzalez has

gone 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA while striking out 27 – his career-best

strikeout total for a three-game span.

The left-hander limited Florida to one hit and three walks over

a career high-tying eight innings of Tuesday’s 1-0 victory,

lowering his ERA to 0.78 in his last five interleague outings.

“That’s the best I’ve seen him pitch and that’s right up there

with the best-pitched game for us since I’ve been here,” Arizona

interim manager Bob Melvin said.

Kennedy (8-2, 3.01), meanwhile, is 2-0 with 31 strikeouts in 30

innings over his last four starts. The right-hander, however,

wasn’t his sharpest during Monday’s 5-4 loss to Cleveland, yielding

four runs and eight hits over eight innings.

Kennedy, who will take his second shot at matching a career high

with his ninth win, is likely looking forward to getting back on

the road, where he is 5-0 with a 2.28 ERA in seven outings. He is

the only major leaguer with at least 40 innings pitched on the road

in 2011 who has yet to lose there.

Kennedy, 2-0 with a 3.74 ERA against the AL this season, could

have an advantage Sunday against a team that hasn’t seen much of

him.

David DeJesus, 0 for 3 lifetime against Kennedy, is the only

active A’s player to have faced the emerging Diamondbacks ace.

DeJesus is mired in a 5-for-34 slump (.147) over his last 13

games.

Oakland (37-47) is batting .218 and has averaged just two runs

while losing seven of 10. The A’s outhit Arizona on Saturday but

went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position.

“They just did more with their hits than we did with ours,”

Melvin said. “We weren’t able to take advantage of our scoring

opportunities.”

Oakland would surely welcome Josh Willingham (Achilles’ strain)

and his team-leading 10 homers back to the lineup, but while he’s

eligible to come off the disabled list Sunday, there is no

timetable for his return.