Mulder wins fourth straight start for Athletics


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Mark Mulder pitched well enough to get
Oakland back on the winning track.

Mulder pitched eight shutout innings Saturday night, outshining
Minnesota's Joe Mays and leading the Athletics to a 2-0 victory
over the Twins, a night after Oakland's AL record 20-game winning
streak was stopped.

"The kid really can pitch,'' said Minnesota manager Ron
Gardenhire. "He bears down, and he gets after you.''

David Justice and Scott Hatteberg drove in runs for Oakland,
which had the majors' longest winning streak in 67 years end with a
6-0 loss to Minnesota on Friday.

But Mulder (17-7) struck out 10, won his fourth straight start
and silenced the Metrodome crowd of 43,628 to put the A's back in
the win column. Five of the Twins' seven hits off Mulder were
infield singles, and he didn't walk anybody, either.

"I wanted to try to make a statement to get this losing streak
to an end,'' Mulder said, "and start a new winning streak.''

The Twins spoke a little more emphatically.

"Coming off the loss, I'm sure he was a little extra pumped up
tonight,'' said Dustan Mohr, who was 0-for-3. "There's not a whole
lot you can do. He had four pitches working.''

Billy Koch pitched a perfect ninth for his 38th save in 44
chances to keep Anaheim from gaining any ground. Even with those 20
straight victories, the A's are only two games ahead of the Angels,
who have won nine in a row.

The Twins are much safer in first. Chicago's loss to Cleveland
reduced Minnesota's magic number for clinching the AL Central to
seven and kept the division lead at 14 games.

Mays (3-6) pitched almost as well as Mulder, but he allowed RBI
singles to Justice in the second and Hatteberg in the eighth
inning. Mays, who made his 10th start since returning in July from
an elbow injury that cost him three months, has gotten some good
practice in for the playoffs. In his last six outings, he's faced
some stiff competition -- Mulder twice, Boston's Pedro Martinez
twice, Chicago's Mark Buehrle and Seattle's Ismael Valdes.

"It was a good game to be a part of,'' Mays said. "I threw the
ball well -- Mulder just threw a little better. It's fun, it makes
the game that much more competitive.''

Mays gave up two runs -- one earned -- and five hits in 7 1/3
innings. The A's scored in the second when Jermaine Dye reached on
a two-base throwing error on shortstop Cristian Guzman and scored
on Justice's slow-rolling single up the middle. After that, Mays
retired 18 of the next 20 batters until the eighth.

Ramon Hernandez singled, moved to second on a perfect sacrifice
bunt by Ray Durham and scored on Hatteberg's single.

"Classic pitching performance,'' Gardenhire said. "We had the
chances to get some runs, but we just couldn't get that big hit.''

Mulder, who struck out 12 in a 2-1 loss to Minnesota in July,
struck out five of the first six batters he faced from the Twins,
who are just 18-25 against left-handed starters.

Minnesota had two good chances to score. Luis Rivas singled and
Jacque Jones doubled in the third -- the only hard-hit balls Mulder
gave up -- but Guzman struck out to end the inning. The Twins loaded
the bases on three infield hits in the fifth, but Guzman couldn't
beat out his chopper to short.

"Just an outstanding performance,'' said A's manager Art Howe.
"Overpowering at times. We were able to scratch a couple runs
across, and he made it stand up. He was really sharp -- you could
see that from the outset.''

Game notes
Mulder moved into a tie for third in the AL in victories.
Teammate Barry Zito leads the league with 19. ... Minnesota's Doug
Mientkiewicz was given the night off to rest his sore wrist. Rookie
Michael Cuddyer, filling in for the Gold Glove first baseman,
couldn't snag Guzman's low throw on the shortstop's error in the
second and missed another scoop the next inning on Miguel Tejada's
broken-bat infield single to Guzman. ... Guzman, on the night
10,000 of his bobblehead dolls were given out, struck out twice and
went 0-for-4 in addition to the error and stranded five runners.
... The crowd was Minnesota's second-largest of the season