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06/12/08 1:45 AM ET

Geren downplays Brown benching

Oakland (35-30) vs. New York (33-33), Thursday, 7:05 p.m. PT

OAKLAND -- For the better part of the season, Emil Brown has frequently been tagged as the RBI machine in the A's clubhouse -- until recently, that is.

The outfielder has not had many chances to bring runners home in the past week, as he has been limited to late-inning appearances. He did not start any of the games against Los Angeles and was not in the starting lineup for the first two matchups of the Yankees series. On Wednesday, manager Bob Geren finally spoke about Brown's sudden decrease in playing time.

"Well, he was sick yesterday," the skipper explained.

Brown's absence in the starting lineup the last five games, though, represents the first time he has gone back-to-back games without starting this year.

Although Geren didn't touch on the outfielder's performance at the plate, Brown's recent batting stats give A's fans reason to believe those are the reasons behind his bench time.

After hitting .294 over his first 33 games, Brown is batting .194 over his last 25 games. Even more, he has 12 RBIs in his last 33 games after collecting 25 RBIs in his first 25 games. But Geren insisted there were other motives for keeping Jack Cust, Carlos Gonzalez and Travis Buck in the outfield mix.

"He's going to play more against lefties," Geren said of Brown. "That doesn't mean he'll not play against righties."

Entering Wednesday's game, Brown was batting .310 against southpaws as opposed to .222 versus right-handers. With lefty Andy Pettitte throwing in Thursday's series finale, the 33-year-old Brown may finally be joining the starting lineup again.

"I play everybody," insisted Geren.

Pitching matchup
OAK: RHP Joe Blanton (3-8, 4.15 ERA)
Blanton pitched seven strong innings in his last start against the Angels, but John Lackey threw seven stronger innings as the A's fell, 3-1, and Blanton got stuck with his second straight loss. He surrendered three runs (two earned) on seven hits with three strikeouts and one walk while the A's bats were unable to give him much support at the plate. Blanton has never fared well against the Yankees. He got a no-decision in his only start against them last year, giving up three runs on five hits through 6 2/3 innings. Lifetime, he is 0-2 with a 9.39 ERA against New York.

NYY: LHP Andy Pettitte (5-5, 4.99 ERA)
Though Pettitte strung together his worst line in 12 years, allowing 10 runs on 10 hits to the Royals on Saturday, he earned a no-decision after the Yankees capped a furious comeback with a walk-off single in the ninth. Pettitte was hurt mostly by a lack of location, leaving pitches in the middle of the plate -- including one that Jose Guillen hit for a grand slam to knock Pettitte out of the game. His next start will come against the Athletics, a team that tagged him for an 8.31 ERA in two starts last year.

Geren said "everybody did well" in Wednesday's pregame pitchers' fielding practice, which included Oakland's full pitching staff taking short grounders and throwing to various bases. The skipper, who said the practice takes place a few times during the season to "keep 'em fresh," mentioned the added importance of the drills with Interleague Play resuming Friday. "You have to cover more bunt defenses," Geren said. "They're obviously used more with pitchers in the lineup." ... Oakland's lone run in Tuesday's series opener against the Yankees represented the 10th time in the last 38 games they have scored one run or fewer. ... Alan Embree's ninth-inning appearance in Wednesday's game marked his 808th career appearance, passing Nolan Ryan for 38th place in Major League history. ... Bobby Crosby played in his 500th career game Wednesday. ... With his 11th stolen base of the season Tuesday night, Rajai Davis has the most steals among Major Leaguers with fewer than 100 plate appearances. He has 71 plate appearances in 48 games. Davis was reunited with his high school and junior college baseball coaches Wednesday. The two flew out from Connecticut to watch their former player in big league action. ... Geren said Huston Street, who has been battling a strained groin, was available Wednesday night. He was warming in the bullpen when the final out was recorded.

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Up next
• Friday: Athletics (Greg Smith, 3-5, 3.74) at Giants (Barry Zito, 2-9, 5.83), 7:15 p.m. PT
• Saturday: Athletics (Rich Harden, 3-0, 2.85) at Giants (Matt Cain, 3-4, 4.43), 6:05 p.m. PT
• Sunday: Athletics (Dana Eveland, 4-5, 3.76) at Giants (Kevin Correia, 1-3, 4.50), 1:05 p.m. PT

Jane Lee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.