A's Mulder tosses seven shutout innings vs. Texas

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Mark Mulder couldn't even watch the end
of his 19th victory.

After Mulder pitched seven shutout innings Friday night, Billy Koch allowed two runs in the ninth and left the bases loaded in
Oakland's 3-2 win over the Texas Rangers a day after the Athletics clinched the AL West title.

"I was pacing up here (in the clubhouse), then I just quit
watching. I walked down the hallway and hopped on the computer,''
Mulder said.

"Billy always seems to find a way, it's either lights out or he
likes to make it interesting,'' he said. "The bottom line is that
he gets the job done.''

Koch earned his 44th save in 50 opportunities and the Athletics
improved to 89-0 when leading after eighth innings.

With their 101st win, the Athletics remained a half-game behind
the New York Yankees for a chance at home-field advantage through
the AL playoffs. The Yankees have the edge in the tiebreaker.

The Athletics took the lead with two runs in the first inning,
and had a non-eventful game until the bottom of the ninth.

"It was for eight innings,'' Oakland manager Art Howe said. "I
never said we were real pretty.''

Ray Durham doubled on the first pitch thrown by Chan Ho Park
(9-8) and Mark Ellis reached on an infield single. David Justice's
single drove in a run, as did Frank Menechino's groundout.

After rookie Jason Grabowski doubled down the right field line
for his first major league hit in the seventh, he scored on
Durham's second double for a 3-0 lead.

Mulder (19-7) won his sixth straight decision over nine starts.
He allowed just three hits, including an infield single and a
double on which left fielder Grabowski misplayed the ball, with
five strikeouts and one walk during his 89-pitch performance.

The Rangers never got a runner past second base against Mulder,
who has allowed just 20 earned runs over 67 2/3 innings (2.66 ERA)
during his winning streak. He will end the regular season with a
3.47 ERA.

Mecir took over for Mulder in the eighth, and after Jason Hart's
leadoff single, got a flyball and a double-play grounder. Koch
allowed a leadoff double to Herbert Perry and walked Alex Rodriguez
before RBI singles by Rafael Palmeiro and Ivan Rodriguez.

"It's going to happen,'' Koch said. "I felt great in the pen.
It's frustrating after hitting so many spots in the pen to miss
spots in the game.''

Koch retired Carl Everett on a grounder and Donnie Sadler on a
weak popup to third with the bases loaded to end the game. The last
two batters both broke their bats.

Park lost his second straight start, allowing seven hits in
eight innings. He struck out six and walked three.

Before his last three starts, including a no-decision at Seattle
when he allowed just one earned run over eight innings, Park had
won five straight starts.

After striking out No. 8 hitter Terrence Long to end the first,
Park retired 17 of 19 batters, allowing two-out singles to Ellis
and Scott Hatteberg, until Grabowski's double.

"I had a tough inning. It doesn't make it a bad outing
though,'' Park said. "I figured it out after the first inning and
it was better every inning.''

A's shortstop Miguel Tejada was out of the starting lineup for
the first time this season, but pinch hit in the ninth for Ellis to
play in his 430th straight game, the longest active streak in the
majors and a team record. Tejada reached on a fielder's choice and
then stayed in the to replace Ellis at shortstop.

Game notes
In 14 career September starts, Mulder is 9-1 with a 2.93
ERA (32 earned runs over 98 1-3 innings). ... The Rangers have lost
11 of 14 games. ... Rangers SS Alex Rodriguez is 0-for-7 with three
walks since hitting a third-inning homer against Anaheim on
Wednesday night. ... Park threw 133 pitches, the most by a Texas
starter this season. ... Ellis, in his first start at shortstop,
went 2-for-3 and was hit by a pitch.