Athletics-Giants Preview

The Associated Press

Oakland's Scott Kazmir continues to show why he's headed to his first All-Star game in six years.

Ex-Athletics pitcher Tim Hudson seemed destined for the Midsummer Classic prior to a brief rough stretch he now appears to have overcome.

Among the major league leaders with matching 2.53 ERAs, the veterans square off Thursday when the San Francisco Giants try to split the four-game, Bay Bridge Series with the visiting A's.

Having already matched his win total from last season with Cleveland, the 30-year Kazmir (10-3) has continued his resurgence with Oakland (57-34). The left-hander has given up two runs or less in seven of eight starts, yielding one in each of his last two outings along with seven total hits while striking out 15.

He allowed only three singles in seven innings of a 5-1 win over Toronto on Saturday.

"Once he gets into rhythm he gets tough," manager Bob Melvin said. "We feel good when he's out there. For me, he's very deserving (of the All-Star selection). He's been awfully consistent this year."

Facing San Francisco (50-41) for the first time, Kazmir will try to help the major league-best A's bounce back after their six-game winning streak ended with a 5-2 defeat Wednesday.

It was their fourth consecutive loss outside Oakland, matching a season high and one shy of their longest road losing streak from last year. The A's have dropped 13 of 15 at San Francisco.

Hunter Pence homered and had two RBIs for the Giants, who moved into first place in the NL West by a percentage point over the Los Angeles Dodgers despite winning for the fourth time in 18 home games.

"If you look at how things have gone, you find that amazing," manager Bruce Bochy said. "It's all from the good work that happened earlier. We've got to get back on track."

San Francisco had two hits with runners in scoring position after going 0 for 11 with seven strikeouts in the first two meetings at Oakland this week while being outscored 11-1.

"Every game is different," said Pence, batting .343 in his last 25 games. "You're constantly trying to improve as a team."

Pence has a home run in two at-bats versus Kazmir.

Hudson (7-5) spent his first six seasons with Oakland, earning All-Star nods in 2000 and 2004. In his only appearance against the A's, the right-hander allowed five runs, five hits and five walks in five innings of a 5-4 home loss with Atlanta in 2008.

"The organization is a team that I do find a soft spot in my heart for since I spent so many years there," Hudson told MLB's official website. "They gave me an opportunity to start my big league career there, but at the same time, they're another team that I'm trying to go out there and beat.

"They're going to try and hit it off my forehead and I'm going to try to make them swing and miss. It's going to be a fun day."

Hudson, who turns 39 on Monday, boasted a major league-leading 1.81 ERA heading into his start against the Chicago White Sox on June 18. However, including that outing and six days later versus San Diego, he gave up 11 earned runs and 21 hits over 10 1-3 innings to lose both outings.

Though Hudson is 0-1 in two starts since then, he's posted a 1.93 ERA and not yielded a walk. He allowed a run and three hits in six innings of a 5-3, 10-inning victory over the Padres on Saturday.

Hudson has received five runs of support over his last four starts.

Coco Crisp and Nick Punto have faced Hudson the most of any current Oakland players but are a combined 5 for 26 against him.

Versatile Stephen Vogt was retired in his only at-bat versus Hudson, but is batting .467 in his last nine games and homered Wednesday.

Teammate Jed Lowrie has recorded five straight two-hit games.

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