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A's Battle Royals In Rubber Match With Trevor Cahill Looking To Get His 17th Win

(Sports Network) – Trevor Cahill aims to become the first 17-game winner for the Oakland Athletics in six years when the young standout takes the mound in tonight’s rubber match of a three-game series with the Kansas City Royals from Kauffman Stadium.

Cahill has emerged as one of the American League’s top hurlers in just his second major league season, with the right-hander having amassed an impressive 16-6 record along with a 2.61 earned run average that ranks third in the Junior Circuit at the moment. The 2010 All-Star has been especially good since the break, posting a 7-3 mark and a stellar 2.20 ERA in 11 second-half starts.

The 22-year-old certainly hasn’t worn down in September, as he’s yet to allow a run in registering back-to-back victories over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Boston to begin the month. In Friday’s besting of the Red Sox at the Oakland Coliseum, Cahill fired seven scoreless innings and yielded three hits while striking out four.

Cahill was reached for five runs in 6 2/3 innings of a no-decision against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium back in July, but dominated Kansas City in a home matchup the following month. He gave up just three hits and four walks in that August 2 clash to earn the first and only shutout of his career.

The California native, who’s 3-0 with a 3.38 ERA in four overall encounters with the Royals, is bidding to become the first A’s pitcher to win 17 times in a single year since Mark Mulder went 17-8 in 2004.

The Athletics have also garnered plenty of success when facing Kansas City as of late, having taken 12 of 16 meetings between the clubs since the start of the 2009 campaign. Oakland had won six of its first seven tilts with the Royals this season, including a 3-1 triumph on Monday, but was dealt a lopsided loss in last night’s middle test of this set.

Kansas City belted three homers in Tuesday’s 11-3 verdict over the A’s, with Wilson Betemit, Mike Aviles and Kila Ka’aihue all going deep in the rout. Betemit finished 3-for-4 with four RBI on the night, with Aviles collecting three hits and knocking in three runs.

The Royals scored three times in the bottom of the first inning, highlighted by Ka’aihue’s two-run blast off Oakland starter Gio Gonzalez, and tacked on three more in the second to build a commanding 6-0 lead. Aviles’ three-run homer in the third extended the margin even further, and Betemit delivered a two-run shot two batters later for an 11-0 cushion.

“Sometimes you score 11, but not that fast,” remarked Royals starting pitcher Zack Greinke. “That really puts you on cruise control. Just try not to make mistakes that are going to hurt you bad.”

Greinke (9-12) was able to coast through the first seven innings, with the 2009 AL Cy Young Award honoree allowing three runs on six hits to grab the victory.

Gonzalez (14-9), on the other hand, lasted just two-plus frames and was battered for seven runs on seven hits while issuing three walks.

“You can’t give someone an opportunity, especially when you’ve got them already,” Gonzalez said of his struggles. “When you get them down, you’ve got to keep them down.”

The Royals will be trying to record their first series win over Oakland since September of 2008 and will pin their hopes on Bruce Chen in tonight’s finale. The well-traveled southpaw has done a decent job since joining the team’s rotation in late May, compiling an 8-7 record and a 4.83 ERA in 19 starts following a move from the bullpen.

Chen is coming off one of his strongest performances in quite some time, having held the Chicago White Sox to one run and four hits over seven sharp innings this past Friday. He left the contest with a two-run advantage, but wound up without a decision after the Kansas City bullpen coughed up the lead.

The 33-year-old also received a no-decision in a July 17 test with Oakland at Kauffman Stadium, with Chen reached for four runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings that night. He’s made five starts and four relief appearances lifetime against the Athletics and is 1-2 with a 4.04 ERA versus tonight’s opponent.

Chen, who’s pitched in parts of 12 big league seasons with 10 different teams, is vying to win double-digit games for only the second time of his nomadic career. He went 13-10 in 32 starts for Baltimore in 2005.