<
>

A's return to winning ways at home

4/19/2003

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- As usual, whatever was wrong with the
Oakland Athletics went away when Barry Zito took the Coliseum
mound.

Zito pitched a six-hitter, and Erubiel Durazo hit a two-run
double and a homer as the A's got back to their winning ways at
home, beating the Texas Rangers 9-0 Friday night.

Terrence Long and Ramon Hernandez homered and drove in two runs
apiece for the A's, who won seven of their first eight games this
season, then lost seven of eight. On Wednesday, they finished a 3-7
road trip that included their first six-game losing streak in two
years.

But in their return to Oakland, the A's reverted to top form.
That's no surprise when Zito pitches at home: He's 22-1 in his last
31 starts at the Coliseum since June 2001.

"I prepared and really beared down for this start, because it
never feels good to lose after you've won a few," said Zito, whose
career-best 10-game winning streak was snapped in his previous
start against Anaheim. "Hopefully this will get
us back on track.That's what we were trying to do."

Zito, who didn't record a shutout while winning the AL Cy Young
award last season, had no trouble shutting down the Rangers. He
struck out six and allowed just two runners to reach third base in
the sixth complete game of his career.

What's more, he did it without even using his famous curveball
until the fifth inning -- a quirk of the game plan against the
free-swinging Rangers.

"I got the feeling he made it look pretty easy,'' Texas manager
Buck Showalter said. "When he has that kind of command, you can
see what happens."

The A's are many experts' favorites to reach the World Series
this season, but they appeared headed for their third straight slow
start during their road trip. Manager Ken Macha insisted his club
hadn't lost its confidence while struggling, as it did in each of
the previous two Aprils under Art Howe.

"I think a lot of guys' confidence was down this week," Long
said. "We were hitting the ball well, but we weren't scoring runs.
It was just a matter of getting some balls to fall in. Today, we
got those four doubles in the first inning. That got us going."

So did Zito (3-1), who improved to 9-0 in his career against
Texas.

He retired the Rangers' first 11 hitters on the way to his
fourth career shutout, while Oakland scored five runs in the first
against John Thomson (0-2).

The A's had a season-high five hits in the inning, including
four doubles. The rally didn't get going until third baseman Mark
Teixeira was charged with a throwing error on Miguel Tejada's
one-out grounder, though Rafael Palmeiro's clumsy scoop attempt at
first base was just as culpable.

Durazo drove home Tejada and Eric Chavez with a double down the
line. The A's slow-footed designated hitter scored a few moments
later on Long's single to left, sliding home ahead of the throw.

Thomson allowed eight hits and eight runs -- just three were
earned -- in 3 2/3 innings.

"I didn't think anything was there tonight,"Thomson said.
"Every ball seemed to find the middle of the plate, and find their
bats. I try not to let it enter my mind who I'm facing, but after
giving up five runs in the first inning, I sat there and said that
probably wasn't good, because of the guy on the other side. He's a
Cy Young winner, and he threw the ball well."

Long and Hernandez hit consecutive homers in the fourth, and
Scott Hatteberg's double later in the inning chased Thomson.
Hatteberg scored from second when reliever Esteban Yan fielded
Tejada's grounder and threw it past Palmeiro at first -- though
Palmeiro also made a poor play on that throw.

Hernandez, the light-hitting catcher who struggled for most of
last season, extended his hitting streak to eight games.

Texas loaded the bases in the fourth on two singles and a
four-pitch walk to Ruben Sierra, but Palmeiro flied out to left.

The Rangers put runners on second and third with one out in the
ninth, but Zito struck out Palmeiro and got Todd Greene to fly out
to left field to end it.

Game notes
Yan struck out six in 3 1/3 innings of relief. ... Long's
RBI single in the first inning was his 500th career hit. ... Before
the game, Texas designated LHP C.J. Nitkowski for assignment.
Nitkowski was terrible in six relief appearances this month, and
the Rangers must trade, release or outright him to the minors in 10
days. ... The Rangers also put RHP Jay Powell, another struggling
reliever, on the 15-day disabled list with symptoms of vertigo.

Comments