OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Several weeks ago, Eric Chavez decided to
quit concerning himself with his results at the plate and focus on
having quality at-bats.
The approach is working wonders -- and his stroke is finally
coming back.So are the Athletics.Chavez hit a grand slam and Oakland won its season-best fourth
straight game, 5-3 over the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday night."We weren't as bad as we were playing," Chavez said. "But we
built ourselves a big hole. We have to keep doing what we're doing
and get back to respectability. We were losing face. Hopefully we
can get back to .500 by the All-Star break."Chavez, the struggling star who began the day with the
fourth-lowest batting average among American League regulars
(.218), connected in the fifth on his first pitch from Josh Towers.It was Chavez's fifth career grand slam and first since May 11,
2002, also against Toronto. The four RBI matched his season high,
and he also had a seventh-inning double. The home run was No. 168
of his career, moving Chavez past Rickey Henderson into sole
possession of sixth place in Oakland history."The last two weeks, I've been building up," Chavez said.
"I'm feeling comfortable there and I'm able to attack some
balls."The Blue Jays hadn't allowed a grand slam since Aug. 28, by the
Yankees' Ruben Sierra. Toronto pitching coach Brad Arnsberg visited
the mound to speak to Towers moments before Chavez's shot to deep
center.Kirk Saarloos (2-4) snapped a 10-game winless stretch for his
first victory since beating Baltimore 9-0 in Oakland's second game
of the season. Since then, he'd had four losses and six
no-decisions.Saarloos faced one batter more than the minimum in each of the
first four innings, then plunked two in a fifth inning that
featured a two-run double by Aaron Hill. Saarloos allowed three
runs and six hits in 5 2/3 innings, walking two with no strikeouts."Chavy's grand slam was beautiful. I wanted to kiss him,"
Saarloos said. "It's good to get that second win after two months.
It feels like we're putting things together as a club. We're
hitting and pitching in the same game. It feels like we've turned
the corner a little bit."Justin Duchscherer escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh for
Oakland, striking out Vernon Wells and Alex Rios for the final two
outs. Rios had doubled in a run the previous inning.Rookie Huston Street pitched the ninth for his first save in
three chances, only a few hours after the team announced injured
closer Octavio Dotel would have reconstructive elbow surgery. It
was Street's first save situation since assuming the job when Dotel
went on the disabled list May 20.Street, a standout college closer at Texas just last year, had
mixed emotions afterward."Losing O.D. is a huge loss," Street said. "But I am excited.
This is the role I wanted, the role I think I can help the team win
in."Oakland's starters have won three straight for the first time
all year, and the A's bats are beginning to warm up after the club
finished with a majors-worst 7-20 record in May. The winning streak
is Oakland's longest since it won eight straight from Aug. 23-31
last year.The Blue Jays took two of three in Oakland's first home series
of the season in April. But Toronto didn't get enough from Towers
(5-4) as the teams opened a four-game series.Towers lost his third straight start after feeling strong
playing catch Wednesday. He was emerging as a strong No. 2 starter
behind ace Roy Halladay after winning four straight starts from
April 28-May 17, yet he hasn't maintained that form."I was struggling," Towers said. "I felt weak and couldn't
trace the ball. It felt like there was nothing on it. It was a
mess."Towers has given up 15 earned runs and 27 hits over 14 2/3
innings. The A's tagged him for five runs and six hits in 4 1/3
innings. He struck out two and matched his career high with four
walks, which he also did last June 4 in Oakland.He gave up his first grand slam since Miguel Tejada did it while
with the A's on Aug. 24, 2003."He's in a rut now, a very small rut," Blue Jays manager John
Gibbons said. "He'll be fine. We're just in a minor glitch. These
guys will bounce back."Nick Swisher's RBI groundout gave the A's a 1-0 lead in the
second. Bobby Crosby and Mark Kotsay both doubled and had two hits,
with Kotsay recording his team-leading 19th multihit game.
The Blue Jays have lost three straight road series and had
won five of eight before a 3-0 loss to Seattle on Wednesday. ...
With Wednesday's win over Tampa Bay, the A's gained a game in the
standings for the first time since April 30. ... Dotel will have
surgery as soon as possible, despite receiving recommendations from
four doctors that he try to rehabilitate the injury first.
"Octavio does not feel he can pitch with the level of pain he was
pitching with," trainer Larry Davis said. Dotel is expected to be
sidelined for at least a year.