OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Barry Zito turned five more minutes of
exercise into yet another victory before the All-Star break.
"I rode the bike inside a little extra to tire myself out. I
thought it would help me,'' Zito said after allowing two runs in 7
2-3 innings and earning his 11th win of the season Sunday in the
Oakland Athletics' 3-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
Barry Zito isn't cool just because he wears No. 75: he also has a mean curveball and led the AL with 23 wins.
Zito (11-3) scattered nine hits to become the first A's pitcher
with 11 wins at the All-Star break since Dave Stewart (11) and Bob
Welch (13) did it in 1990. Zito, along with shortstop Miguel
Tejada, will be in the All-Star game for the first time. "I want to pitch in the All-Star Game,'' Zito said. "I have to
consider what effect it will have on my next start, but it does
fall when I would normally throw on the side.'' Eric Byrnes homered and drove in two runs as Oakland won its
fourth in six games. The A's are 4-3 in their last seven, all
one-run games. "To string together two starts in a row, I was joking it was a
small miracle,'' Byrnes said. "It's just nice to see Art (manager
Art Howe) has the confidence in me.'' Tejada went 0-for-4 to snap an 11-game hitting streak. The A's (50-38) have their best record at the All-Star break
since starting 51-36 in 1992. Zito, who struck out nine and walked one, tied an Oakland record
with his 15th consecutive home victory, matching Kenny Rogers. He
hasn't lost a regular-season game in Oakland since last June 2 -- 24
starts ago. Billy Koch pitched the ninth for his 20th save in 24
opportunities. Neifi Perez had three hits for the Royals, who lost for the
fifth time in seven games. Royals starter Paul Byrd (11-6) had his three-game winning
streak snapped after lasting 5 2-3 innings. He allowed three runs
on eight hits with two walks and two strikeouts. He was attempting
to become the first Royals pitcher to win 12 games before the
All-Star break since David Cone did it in 1994. "I can't explain today,'' Byrd said. "It played like Colorado
with flares falling and groundballs not coming. It was pretty
strange.'' The A's got some help in taking a 1-0 lead in the fourth. With
two outs, Eric Chavez hit a towering fly near the fence that Kansas
City right fielder Brandon Berger lost in the sun, and it fell for
a triple. John Mabry, who had three hits, followed with a single. "It was a tough ball to pick up,'' Berger said. "I couldn't
pick it up off the bat. I saw it once, then lost it. You can't do
that in a close game.'' Byrnes led off the fifth with his second home run, and added a
sacrifice fly in the sixth. "It's a whole lot more fun when you get a chance to play,''
Byrnes said. "Whatever opportunities I can get is an advantage for
me.'' With two outs in the seventh, Perez singled and Berger followed
with his fourth home run. Zito retired 10 of the previous 11
hitters before Perez's single. He had not allowed an earned run to
the Royals in 19 previous innings.
Mike Sweeney was back in the Royals lineup after missing
three games with a cut finger, resulting from being hit by a pitch
from Seattle's Joel Piniero on Wednesday. ... A's RHP Mike Fyhrie
was optioned to Sacramento of the PCL to make room for LHP Ted
Lilly, acquired Friday as part of a three-team trade with Detroit
and the New York Yankees. ... Byrd threw 30 pitches in the first
two innings, 27 for strikes. ... Howe announced that RHP Aaron
Harang would move to the bullpen as Lilly joined the starting
rotation. ... A's OF Jermaine Dye was given the day off. ...
Royals' starters have a 2.09 ERA (8 runs in 38 2-3 innings) over
the past six games. ... Kansas City OF Carlos Beltran went 0-for-4,
stretching his slump to 2-for-24.