OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- When Barry Zito reached 108 pitches after
six innings, he approached Ken Macha and assured his manager he'd
be fine to go one more.
The way things were going, Macha had no doubts.Zito struck out 10 for the first time in more than a year and
Erubiel Durazo hit his career-high 22nd home run, leading the
Oakland Athletics over the Cleveland Indians 1-0 Sunday night.Zito (11-10) had not reached double digits in strikeouts since
fanning 10 at Minnesota on May 27, 2003. He had struck out nine
twice this season."I think I just found I relaxed a little more," Zito said. "I
think I put too much pressure on myself early in the year to be
dominant."He also worked on elevating his fastball between starts, and it
worked wonders.After the A's rallied to win 5-4 Saturday on consecutive
eighth-inning home runs by rookies Bobby Crosby and Nick Swisher,
Zito gave Oakland one of his best performances this year, allowing
four hits in seven scoreless innings. His 125 pitches were his
second-most ever -- he threw 128 at Cleveland on Aug. 21, 2000.Chris Hammond, Chad Bradford and Octavio Dotel completed the
six-hit shutout. Dotel pitched the ninth for his 20th save in 25
chances, striking out Coco Crisp looking to end the game with
runners on first and second."I thought it was important to prove to Macha that I could go
out after 100 pitches and still have a quality inning," Zito said.
"It was big."Especially since Zito left his previous start last week against
Boston after 6 1-3 innings and 119 pitches.The A's maintained their two-game AL West lead over Anaheim,
which beat the Chicago White Sox 11-0. Oakland plays its final 20
games against the division, starting Monday night with the opener
of a four-game series against Texas."We couldn't ask for anything more on Sept. 12 being two games
up and going back against our division," Zito said. "This is what
we look forward to the first day of spring training."Durazo connected with one out in the second, sending a 1-0
changeup from Jake Westbrook (12-8) over the center-field wall. He
surpassed his home run total of 21 from last season, and the A's
improved to 14-5 in games in which he homers.Zito struck out Crisp, Cleveland's leadoff hitter, three times
and didn't allow a hit until giving up back-to-back one-out singles
to Ronnie Belliard and Victor Martinez in the fourth.Zito walked Josh Phelps two batters after Martinez, but got Lou
Merloni to fly out to left to escape the bases-loaded jam. That was
the only inning an Indians runner got farther than first when Zito
was in the game."We took it all the way to the last out," Indians manager Eric
Wedge said. "That will pay off for us in the future. We just
couldn't get that final knock to tie it or give us the lead."Macha said earlier in the day he expected a strong outing from
Zito, the 2002 AL Cy Young winner. Zito was winless in his previous
two starts and has struggled through an inconsistent season. The
left-hander improved to 8-3 in 12 starts since the All-Star break."Barry was outstanding," Macha said. "It was a clutch
performance when we needed it. It was a pitching coach's dream. ...
When you're not scoring any runs, you have to make some pitches,
and we did."Zito lost to Boston last Monday to become the first A's pitcher
since Mike Oquist in 1998 and '99 to have back-to-back 10-loss
seasons.Cleveland won the season series 6-3, but Westbrook fell to 0-5
in seven career meetings with the A's."One pitch, one mistake, and it cost us," said Westbrook, who
allowed only one run on five hits and struck out six in eight
innings. "I threw the ball well and got out of some jams. ...
(Zito) pitched a great game and kept us off balance."Mark McLemore singled twice for the A's for his 12th multihit
game of the year.
The Indians will call up RHP Kyle Denney from Triple-A
Buffalo to make a spot start and his major league debut Tuesday
against Detroit at Jacobs Field. ... Injured A's RF Jermaine Dye
hit soft toss while wearing a protective plastic sleeve over his
severely sprained left thumb. There is still no timeline for his
return, though trainer Larry Davis hinted Dye could come back by
next weekend. ... Westbrook made his 100th major league appearance.
... The A's raised $125,000 for breast cancer research. ... Zito is
17-3 in September. It was his 10th double-digit strikeout game.