OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Some of the Oakland Athletics admit
they've been scoreboard watching already. With Anaheim chasing so
close behind, it's been hard not to.
"It's felt like September the last few weeks," outfielder Eric
Byrnes said. "We started playing pretty well and Anaheim started
playing well."Eric Chavez homered for the third straight game and Tim Hudson
won his third consecutive start, leading the A's over the Tampa Bay
Devil Rays 5-4 on Saturday night.The A's sixth straight victory extended their AL West lead to
two games over the Angels, who lost 7-1 at home to Minnesota."I think we obviously notice how much they've been winning,"
Byrnes said. "They finally lost again."Byrnes added a two-run homer for Oakland, which overcame three
errors a day after rallying from a four-run deficit to win 8-7.Hudson (10-4) retired the first six before a walk to Randall
Simon leading off the third. Chavez, the A's Gold Glove third
baseman, committed a fielding error in the third to allow Carl
Crawford to reach, and Mark McLemore's fielding error at second in
the fifth led to two unearned runs.Rookie shortstop Bobby Crosby also committed an error,
overthrowing first in the sixth to allow Julio Lugo to get to
second.Hudson didn't let it bother him."If anything, it makes me want to attack the strike zone even
more and let the guys behind me make another play," he said.The Devil Rays received a warning after starter Dewon Brazelton
plunked rookie Bobby Crosby in his left upper arm in the fourth
following Byrnes' homer. Brazelton hit Erubiel Durazo with a pitch
last weekend after the designated hitter homered.Chavez hit his 27th homer in the first, sending a 1-2 pitch from
Brazelton (6-5) over the wall in left-center for a two-run shot.
McLemore doubled before Chavez.After Scott Hatteberg grounded out, the A's got two more hits,
including Durazo's RBI single that scored Jermaine Dye from second
following his double, making it 3-0.Byrnes hit the first pitch he saw from Brazelton in the fourth
to left for a two-run homer, his 19th.Hudson didn't allow a hit until Simon's single to right in the
fifth after Jorge Cantu reached when McLemore misplayed a routine
grounder. Geoff Blum followed with an RBI single, then Brook
Fordyce hit a two-run double to pull Tampa Bay within 5-3. Jose
Cruz Jr. then added an RBI groundout, scoring Fordyce.Hudson allowed two earned runs and four hits in seven innings,
struck out four and walked one. Octavio Dotel finished for his 16th
save in 20 opportunities.Hudson is 6-0 with a 1.63 ERA in nine home starts this year. He
feels healthy again after missing more than a month with a strained
left stomach muscle."I obviously had some time off and I feel fresh right now," he
said. "Physically, I feel as close to 100 percent as I have in the
past. I'm feeling good out there. I feel confident."Brazelton had won his previous two starts, including beating
Oakland 2-1 last Sunday with seven strong innings. Manager Lou
Piniella gave him an extra day before Saturday's start.A frustrated Piniella didn't talk to reporters after the game.
The Devils Rays have lost 12 of their last 17 and are just 6-26 in
Oakland -- their worst record in any opposing ballpark. They have
dropped 15 of their last 16 here.Brazelton has never won on the road, falling to 0-10. The
right-hander allowed more than three runs for only the second time
in his last nine starts."I wanted my seventh win, simple as that," he said. "I've
been pitching well, but came out today and Byrnes' hit was crushed.
... Last week, things went my way. This week, they didn't."He was tagged for five runs and six hits in four innings, struck
out one and didn't walk a batter.The A's will try to complete a perfect homestand -- they swept
Baltimore in four games last week -- Sunday in the series finale.
Chavez has six homers in his last nine games, and nine in
August. He's hit five in eight games against the Devil Rays this
year. ... Dye's double in the first ended an 0-for-12 stretch. ...
Piniella celebrated his 61st birthday. ... The A's drew a sellout
crowd of 48,099 on fireworks night. ... Blum has six RBI in his
last three games.