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Archive for Friday, October 3, 2003

A’s take commanding 2-0 lead

October 3, 2003

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— Barry Zito got plenty of rest and no relaxation the night before he dominated the Boston Red Sox.

While his Oakland teammates worked late for a 12-inning victory in the division series opener, Zito was wide awake in bed. He turned the radio on and off, called his parents -- anything to stay occupied until the Athletics were finished.

Thursday, Zito had a spring in his step and a nasty dip in his curveball -- and he put the A's in command of the best-of-five series by striking out nine over seven impressive innings. Oakland sent bleary-eyed Boston to the brink of playoff elimination with a 5-1 victory in Game 2.

The teams took the field for batting practice slightly more than 10 hours after Eric Chavez scored the winning run in Game 1 on Ramon Hernandez's daring bases-loaded bunt.

"I think I pictured it pretty well," Zito said. "But I still came in the clubhouse and watched the tape of the last couple of guys, just to make it real and get me fired up for the game today."

The Cy Young winner's looping curve was in top form, and Boston's record-setting offense spent the afternoon flailing at his best stuff. The A's didn't score again after an impressive second-inning rally, but Zito and relievers Chad Bradford and Keith Foulke easily made it stand up.

"Everybody was here early, even though it was a really tough night (Wednesday)," said Hernandez, who had an RBI single in Game 2. "It's the time of year when you don't have to worry about getting tired. We're a young team, and we love it."

Zito allowed five hits and two walks for the A's, who have lost in the first round in each of the past three postseasons. Oakland can advance to its first league championship series since 1992 with one more victory.

"I think we definitely have something to prove," Zito said. "We realize our guys are not going to be coming back every year. We lost Jason (Giambi), and the whole (Miguel) Tejada thing, we don't know what's going to happen with that.

"We don't have a lot more years to say, 'Oh, we'll get them next year.' We have to really bear down and get this series as soon as we can."

Game 3 is Saturday at Fenway Park. Derek Lowe, the losing pitcher in the opener, will start against Ted Lilly.

"Zito pitched a great game," said Nomar Garciaparra, who went 1-for-3. "He put us against the wall, but we've been there before."

Boston trailed Cleveland 0-2 in the 1999 division series before rallying to win it in five games.

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