Mulder-Washburn duel decided by Salmon's HR

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- An exceptional pitching duel ended with
one emphatic swing of Tim Salmon's bat, and the Anaheim Angels
inched ahead once again in the race for the AL West title.

After Mark Mulder and Jarrod Washburn pitched to a scoreless
draw through nine innings, Salmon homered in the 10th as the Angels
reclaimed sole possession of first place with a 1-0 victory over
the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday night.

Salmon's one-out shot against closer Billy Koch (10-4) decided a
game that left both teams thrilled and drained by the battle
between two of the AL's premier left-handers.

''I've never been to the playoffs, but I can't imagine anything
much more adrenalin-filled than this,'' said Angels closer Troy
Percival, who pitched the 10th for his 250th career save. ''That
was probably the best-pitched ballgame on both sides I've ever
seen. Both guys didn't miss a spot all night.''

Mulder, a 17-game winner, tied his career-high with 12
strikeouts for Oakland, allowing five hits over nine innings. He
was matched for eight innings by 18-game winner Washburn, who
yielded three hits while pitching on three days' rest.

Neither pitcher walked a batter, and Washburn didn't allow a
runner past first base. Fans at the Coliseum stood and applauded
both pitchers in the late innings as the tension became almost

''It's never something you wish for, to be in a battle like
that, but it was a lot of fun out there,'' said Washburn, who felt
no ill effects from returning early. ''I'm never dominant, but it
was just about the best game I've pitched all year. It was
definitely one of the highlights of my career so far.''

Koch, who won for Oakland on Monday night, relieved Mulder to
start the 10th. Salmon worked a full count before hitting his 20th
homer of the season deep into the elevated left-field stands.

''It wouldn't have gone out -- if the fence was 100 feet back,''
Koch said with a grimace. ''He absolutely crushed that ball. My
luck ran out. Before I went in, I was thinking, 'This is a good
game. I don't want to be the goat.' After he hit that ball, I
thought, 'Damn, I am the goat.'''

Salmon, who was hitting just .162 in September, was actually
grateful to face Koch's 95 mph fastballs.

''Mulder had me baffled,'' Salmon said. ''The guy had everything
working. ... It feels great to get the big one in a game like this.
I've played my whole career for this. I can't imagine more
intensity than there was out there tonight.''

Ben Weber (7-2) pitched the ninth for the win. Percival allowed
a baserunner in the 10th, but he finished strong for his 40th save
in 44 chances as Anaheim won for the 17th time in 19 games.

''That was a great baseball game, almost a throwback game, like
Marichal and Koufax going at it,'' Oakland manager Art Howe said.

After Oakland (94-57) climbed back into a first-place tie with a
win over the Angels on Monday night, Anaheim (95-56) returned the
favor in a four-game series that has big implications on baseball's
tightest division race.

Five of their six meetings over the past nine days were decided
by one run.

The Angels haven't won a division title or been to the
postseason since 1986, while the A's are looking for their second
AL West crown in three seasons. Both teams will almost certainly be
in the playoffs, but both would prefer the home-field advantage
that comes with the division title.

Washburn retired 14 of 15 hitters at one point, while Mulder
struck out three straight batters in three separate instances,
including four straight spanning the seventh and eighth innings.

Mulder's strikeout totals were all the more remarkable against
the Angels, who have struck out more than 100 fewer times than any
team in the majors.

''When the game is close, it helps me stay focused,'' Mulder
said. ''I like pitching these games. It's a lot of fun.''

Mulder allowed more hard-hit balls than Washburn, but the A's
ace got good fielding from his teammates.

The Angels opened the third inning with two hits, but shortstop
Miguel Tejada threw out Bengie Molina at home plate to help Mulder
escape the jam. In the sixth, Mulder got Garret Anderson to ground
into a double play with two runners on.

Game notes
Action film star Jackie Chan threw out the first pitch.
Before the game, he traded playful kicks with A's bench coach Ken
Macha in the clubhouse. ... Anderson, the Angels' All-Star left
fielder, returned to the lineup after missing two games with a
strained hamstring. ... With a crowd of 25,894, the A's drew 2
million fans for the second consecutive season.