A's ride Harden's gem to victory over Mariners

SEATTLE (AP) -- Oakland's starting pitchers challenged each other
a lot more than the Seattle Mariners did.

Rich Harden gave the Athletics another top mound performance,
taking a three-hit shutout into the eighth inning of Sunday's 6-4
win over the Seattle Mariners.

Joe Blanton and Justin Duchscherer combined on a two-hitter
Friday, and Barry Zito and three relievers strung together a
one-hitter Saturday. In this one, Harden and four relievers
combined on a five-hitter.

"In a way, all the starters are kind of competing against each
other," Harden said.

Seattle had been held scoreless for 27 2-3 innings -- four outs
shy of the team record -- and trailed 6-0 before breaking through in
the eighth.

"To me, they have the best pitching staff all around," loser
Joel Pineiro said. "The last three days have been amazing."

Harden (1-0) struck out eight and walked one in seven-plus
innings in front of 25 cheering relatives, including his
grandmother and uncle. In his last four games against Seattle -- all
at Safeco Field, near his hometown of Victoria, British Columbia --
he is 4-0 and has allowed one run in 21 innings.

"Feels like home to me here," he said. "It's pretty close."

For the game's first half, he buzzed through Seattle's lineup
with diving split-fingers and tempting offspeed pitches. His
fastball reached 97 mph.

"That gun's off. He was throwing a lot harder than that,"
closer Huston Street said. "Those were probably 100."

Seattle hit only five balls out of the infield in the first
seven innings against Harden. Beltre's line drive well over
shortstop Bobby Crosby's glove with two outs in the fifth inning
was his first hit in eight career at-bats against him.

Richie Sexson doubled to left-center with two outs in the sixth,
but Harden struck out Carl Everett.

After a tired Harden walked Beltre to start the eighth, he
allowed a Jeremy Reed single on his 100th and final pitch.

"There was a little debate whether to send him out there that
eighth inning," manager Ken Macha said.

Duchscherer relieved. Pinch-hitter Roberto Petagine walked with
one out to load the bases, Ichiro Suzuki extended his skid to
0-for-12 with a popout and Jose Lopez was hit by a 1-2 pitch,
forcing in the first Mariners run in three days.

Joe Kennedy came in with the bases loaded and struck out Raul
Ibanez, who slammed his batting helmet into the dirt in

In the innings between Mariners runs, Seattle was 7-for-87
(.080) at the plate. Following a 3-1 start, Seattle has lost three
in a row.

"Are we as good a hitters as we were in the first four games? I
don't know," manager Mike Hargrove said. "Are we as bad as the
last two? No ... we are somewhere in the middle."

Seattle did score three runs in the ninth. Reed hit an RBI
groundout off Kirk Saarloos and Kenji Johjima had an RBI single.
Street allowed a single to Willie Bloomquist, then made a high,
rushed throw to first for an error on Suzuki comebacker to score
another run.

With runners at second and third, Street retired Lopez on a
game-ending groundout for his second save.

Eric Chavez hit his third homer and drove in three runs for
Oakland, and Mark Ellis had three hits and two RBI.

Pineiro (1-1) allowed six runs -- five earned -- and 10 hits in
seven innings, dropping to 8-4 against the A's. His 2.95 ERA in 15
games against Oakland coming in had been his lowest against any
team he faced at least 10 times.

Game notes
Chavez's home run was his 193rd, seventh on the A's career
list. His 28 home runs against Seattle are his most against any
team. ... A's C Jason Kendall had two hits. He had one hit in his
first five games entering Sunday. ... Beltre was 3-for-23 this
season before his single. ... Street's converted his 20th
consecutive save chance, the fourth-best streak in Oakland history.
... Oakland is 5-2 for the second time in three seasons. Seattle is
3-4 for the second straight year.