Lowe, Mulder leave game early with injuries


BOSTON (AP) -- The Oakland Athletics took the lead in the AL
wild-card race on Tuesday night. Whether they can hold onto it may
depend on how badly their top pitcher is hurt.

Mark Mulder left with a nagging hip injury after three innings,
but Ramon Hernandez hit a three-run homer and the Oakland bullpen
pitched six scoreless innings to lead the A's over the Boston Red
Sox 3-2.

"It's tough to see one of your horses go down," said A's
pitcher Tim Hudson, also recovering from an injury. "But I'm
excited to see our bullpen do the job for us. They did an
unbelievable job."

Oakland took a one-game lead in the race for the league's
wild-card spot despite getting three hits -- just two of them in the
first six innings off Derek Lowe, who also left the game with an
injury, a blister on his right thumb.

"I was disappointed that we had to make a move there that we
were not anticipating," Red Sox manager Grady Little said. "I was
looking at the guy going nine innings tonight with the stuff he

Lowe also left his June 8 start because of the blister, but he
didn't miss a start then and he said he doesn't expect to now.

"You have to look down the line," he said. "You want to pitch
every five days. That's the key."

Ricardo Rincon (7-4) pitched 1 2-3 innings, walking one and
striking out three. Keith Foulke got three outs for his 32nd save
as the A's remained four games behind Seattle in the AL West.

Boston lost for the eighth time in 12 games and dropped a
season-high 6{ games behind the New York Yankees in the East. Scott
Williamson (0-1) took the loss for giving up Hernandez's homer.

Mulder is 15-9 with a 3.13 ERA -- among the league leaders in
both categories and the top winner on a staff that includes AL Cy
Young winner Barry Zito. His nine complete games leads the majors
by far, making even more surprising for him to leave so early in
the game.

"I couldn't make good pitches," said Mulder, who allowed two
runs and six hits in three innings -- his shortest outing of the
year. "It's frustrating, because it's a big part of the season
right now."

Mulder said he first felt discomfort in the hip on July 19, in
his first start after the All-Star break. Lately he has stopped
throwing from a mound between starts; he hasn't backed up home
plate his last two outings and said he couldn't cover first if he
needed to.

Neither Mulder nor manager Ken Macha nor pitching coach Rick
Peterson would speculate on whether their top winner would be able
to make his next start. His injury was called both a hip strain and

The A's are also monitoring Tim Hudson, who will start Thursday
if he has recovered from a bruise on his right hand. He threw about
25 pitches on Tuesday and said he needs to see more improvement if
he is to face Pedro Martinez in the series finale.

Lowe, who was third in the Cy Young voting last season, is 12-6
with a 5.02 ERA and he is the top winner on a staff that includes
Pedro Martinez, a three-time Cy Young Award recipient.

He was cruising on Tuesday, given a two-run lead on
second-inning RBI singles from Gabe Kapler and Damian Jackson.

But when Lowe didn't come out for the seventh, Scott Sauerbeck
walked Eric Chavez, got Miguel Tejada on a groundout and then
walked Erubiel Durazo. With Williamson pitching, Hernandez hit one
into the new seats above the Green Monster.

Williamson also walked one in two-thirds of an inning for his
first decision since coming to Boston in July in a trade that was
supposed to shore up the bullpen.

Game notes
Mulder has not won in three starts -- his longest slump of
the year. ... The Red Sox put the score of the Little League World
Series game between Saugus, Mass., and East Boynton Beach, Fla., on
the manual scoreboard in left field. ... It was Oakland's first
trip to Boston since Athletics GM Billy Beane accepted the GM job
in Boston last winter and quickly changed his mind. ... A's OF Adam
Piatt was claimed off waivers by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. ...
Boston OF Johnny Damon returned after missing two games with a
tight right hamstring. ... Trot Nixon and Todd Walker were not in
the starting lineup. Nixon is 10-for-50 in August, and Walker is
batting .182 in July and August. ... Lowe hasn't gone more than six
innings in his last five starts.