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A's 19th straight win ties for all-time AL best

9/3/2002

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- The improbable has become almost
inevitable for the Oakland Athletics. Big deficits, bonehead errors
and bad pitching -- all in the same game, no less -- simply couldn't
derail their amazing 19-game winning streak.

Miguel Tejada got his second straight game-ending hit as the A's
matched the longest winning streak in AL history, beating the
Kansas City Royals 7-6 Monday to extend baseball's longest run in
55 years.

David Justice homered and drove in four runs as Oakland charged
back from a 5-0 hole and a terrible start by ace Barry Zito. With
Tejada's bases-loaded single through five drawn-in infielders,
Oakland equaled the 19 straight wins recorded by the 1906 White Sox
and matched by the 1947 Yankees. The Giants set the major league
record with 26 consecutive wins in 1916.

So many things went wrong for the A's, but nobody in green and
gold seemed the least bit surprised to be gathering in the infield
for another jubilant, helmet-slapping postgame party.

''I wouldn't know how to explain it or put it in perspective,''
Zito said. ''We're the Oakland A's. We're young. We have fun. Some
other teams might be talking about how incredible this is, and it
is -- but we do a lot of incredible things.''

With their second straight victory in their final at-bat, the
A's have the fifth-longest streak in major league history -- and the
third longest since 1900.

''I don't think anybody is going to be satisfied with tying
something,'' said A's closer Billy Koch (8-2), who got his second
straight victory while pitching for the fourth straight day. ''I
think we'd rather break something.''

With the score tied at 6 in the ninth, Tejada rapped a one-out
single up the middle. The hit sparked a replay of the raucous
Coliseum celebration on Sunday, when Tejada's dramatic three-run
homer beat Minnesota.

For the third straight day, the A's streak seemed to be in
serious jeopardy. In the fifth inning, Oakland trailed 5-0 and
hadn't managed a hit against Kansas City starter Runelvys
Hernandez.

But after Hernandez woke up the A's by zipping a pitch at
Jermaine Dye's head, Oakland rallied with Justice's two-run homer
in the fifth and four more runs in the sixth, capped by Justice's
two-run single that put Oakland up 6-5.

''That's a great ballclub,'' Kansas City manager Tony Pena said.
''They believe in themselves and what they can do. We were up 5-0,
but they came back and showed what they were after.''

Kansas City tied it in the eighth and loaded the bases in the
ninth against Koch, but Tejada artfully turned Neifi Perez's
grounder into an inning-ending double play.

With the pulsating Coliseum sensing another victory, Terrence
Long led off the ninth with a triple against Jason Grimsley (3-5) --
which might have been aided by a fan who threw an orange near left
fielder Raul Ibanez.

The Royals intentionally walked Greg Myers and Ray Durham to
load the bases. They got Long at home plate on Scott Hatteberg's
grounder -- but Tejada finished it.

''(Long) hits it off his fist, and some idiot in the stands
throws an orange at him, and (Long) ends up at third,'' Grimsley
said. ''There's nothing we can do but walk the bases loaded with
the hottest hitter on the planet up, and nowhere to put him.''

Zito, who complained of dizziness before the game, wasted a
chance to become the AL's first 20-game winner. He yielded 10 hits
and five runs in six innings for one of the worst starts of his
outstanding career.

Perez had four hits for the Royals, who had 14 hits and plenty
of chances to put away the A's.

The comeback was particularly sweet for Justice and Tejada, who
made early fielding blunders that put Oakland in a big hole.

Perez led off the third with a line drive into the left-field
corner. Justice sprinted after the ball and leaped at the wall to
catch it -- but the ball hit the bottom of Justice's glove and
ricocheted over the fence, turning a probable double into a homer.

Zito gave up a long homer to A.J. Hinch on his very next pitch.
Kansas City took a 5-0 lead on three unearned runs in the fourth,
thanks to an error by Tejada.

Hernandez retired 12 of Oakland's first 13 hitters, but he threw
at Dye in the fifth. On the next pitch, Dye beat out a grounder for
Oakland's first hit, and Justice followed with his 11th homer of
the season.

''When we were down 5-0, the mood in the dugout was real
solemn,'' Zito said. ''When he threw at (Dye), that got us excited.
We were up, talking trash. That really woke us up.''

Kansas City tied it in the eighth when Perez scored on Luis
Ordaz's double-play grounder.

Game notes
A's reliever Jim Mecir began serving his three-game
suspension for hitting Chicago's Royce Clayton two weeks ago. ...
Mike Sweeney, who trails Bernie Williams by one point for the AL
batting lead, pinch-hit in the seventh with two runners on and two
outs. He flied out to center. ... Zito ran head-on into Kansas
City's Aaron Guiel in the fourth when he ran to back up home plate
as Guiel was attempting to score on a sacrifice fly. Neither player
saw each other coming, but neither was hurt.