<
>

Thomas ends Batista's shot at perfection, but D-Backs win

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Miguel Batista spent his time between
innings bantering with fellow Dominican teammate Juan Cruz -- a far
cry from the typical keep-to-yourself approach most pitchers stick
to during a no-hit bid.

Cruz actually had the gall before the game to challenge Batista
to go out and justify his big paycheck.

And boy did he.

Batista carried a perfect game into the seventh and didn't allow
a hit until Frank Thomas' two-run homer, leading the Arizona
Diamondbacks to a 7-2 victory over the Oakland Athletics on
Saturday.

"I threw everything today, everything I've got," Batista said.
"The one thing that surprised me is they didn't take too many
pitches. They're a team that usually makes you work."

Batista (8-5) finished with a three-hitter for his second
complete game of the year and the ninth of his career. He retired
the first 20 A's batters before he walked No. 3 hitter Bobby Crosby
on four pitches with two outs in the seventh for Oakland's first
baserunner.

Thomas followed with a two-run shot to the cement stairwell in
left field to break up the no-hit bid, hitting a 2-2 cutter for his
17th homer one day after coming off the disabled list. The Big Hurt
has 465 career home runs, tying him with Dave Winfield for 25th
place on the career list.

The 35-year-old Batista was trying for the majors' first
no-hitter since Randy Johnson pitched a perfect game for Arizona on
May 18, 2004, at Atlanta. He struck out six and walked one in a
122-pitch performance.

"I haven't seen him pitch like that for several years," Thomas
said.

Batista got through six innings having thrown only 74 pitches --
allowing just two balls to leave the infield, both routine flyouts.
There wasn't even a close play until Gold Glove second baseman
Orlando Hudson made a diving stop on Mark Kotsay's sharp grounder
in the seventh moments before Crosby walked.

"You want to get on base and you can't," Crosby said. "You
never want a team to throw a perfect game or a no-hitter against
you. I was just trying to get on base any way I could."

Luis Gonzalez matched his career high with four hits and had
three doubles to tie a Diamondbacks record. It was the third time
an Arizona player has doubled three times in a game this season and
the first since Johnny Estrada on May 6. Estrada drove in two runs
Saturday.

Batista, who ended a three-start losing streak when he beat the
Los Angeles Angels 9-7 last Sunday in Phoenix, worked ahead in the
count all afternoon to keep his pitch count down -- and his gem
helped Arizona win back-to-back games for the first time since
sweeping a four-game series at Atlanta from June 1-4.

"It just feels good," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said.
"Whether it's (because it's) July, I don't know."

Batista pumped his fist when he struck out Crosby to end the
game. He had given up at least six runs in three of his last four
outings, allowing 22 runs in 22 1-3 innings spanning those four
starts.

Cruz told Batista and Estrada they were an "overpaid"
combination and needed a big game.

"I did a lot of crazy stuff today," Batista said. "Johnny
said, 'What are you doing?' I said, 'Justifying the paycheck."

His teammates weren't too surprised to see Batista jawing with
Cruz in the midst of an outing that could have made history.

"He talks to everybody," Gonzalez said. "Miggy's Miggy. He's
a different bird."

Oakland, which came in with an AL-worst .249 batting average,
hasn't been no-hit since July 13, 1991, by four Baltimore Orioles
pitchers.

Jeff DaVanon's infield single in Arizona's six-run seventh broke
a scoreless tie, with Shawn Green coming home after leading off the
inning with a double. Conor Jackson singled in two runs, Gonzalez
added an RBI double, and Chad Tracy and Estrada each had RBI
singles as Arizona batted around in the inning.

Esteban Loaiza (3-5) pitched 6 2-3 innings for Oakland, running
into trouble in the seventh. He allowed nine hits and five runs,
struck out three and walked one to lose after pitching his first
complete game in more than two years -- since May 9, 2004, at
Toronto while with the Chicago White Sox -- with a six-hitter June
25 at San Francisco.

Loaiza didn't allow a hit until Gonzalez doubled with two outs
in the fourth, then DaVanon tripled to the wall in center the next
inning.

Oakland, which had its season-best eight-game home winning
streak snapped Friday night with a 6-4 defeat, lost a series to
Arizona for the first time in five sets. This series marked the
first meetings between the clubs since July 6-8, 2001, when the A's
earned a three-game sweep.

The A's can avoid being swept in Sunday's series finale that
features a pitching matchup of two eight-game winners in Oakland
ace Barry Zito and Arizona's Brandon Webb.

Arizona had an error when catcher Estrada missed a catch on
Marco Scutaro's popup in foul territory in the third.

Game notes
Oakland manager Ken Macha has been in uniform for three
perfect games. ... Loaiza is 3-2 in day games. ... Oakland 3B Eric
Chavez missed his second straight game with inflammation in his
forearms. ... Batista faced the A's four times last season -- all in
relief -- while with the Toronto Blue Jays. ... The latest A's fan
giveaway: oven mitts and potholders. ... Green hit his 17th double
a day after getting two to reach 400 career doubles. ... Gonzalez
has 17 four-hit games.