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Archive for Sunday, August 20, 2006

Zito hits stride vs. Royals

Oakland ace rebounds from pair of poor starts

August 20, 2006

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— Barry Zito bounced back with a solid outing after two rough starts.

Zito pitched eight strong innings and the surging Oakland Athletics beat the Kansas City Royals, 7-2, on Saturday night. Oakland has won 13 of 16 and 18 of its last 23 despite being swept by the Royals in a doubleheader on Friday night.

"After a couple of bad starts by Barry, I thought he was pretty much in command of his pitches," Oakland manager Ken Macha said of his ace. "To have Barry bounce back like that, perhaps that will give us a boost for the next six weeks or so."

Zito (13-8) gave up two runs and eight hits while striking out seven and walking two. In his previous two starts against Texas and Seattle, he had given up 10 earned runs in 10 innings.

"I felt a little better out there. My velocity was just a touch better," Zito said. "I imagine if I keep staying on this path of doing stuff like this, it will be good."

Zito's eight innings was particularly necessary since closer Huston Street was unavailable with a right groin strain. "After you get a doubleheader, it's nice for that guy to go out there and do that," Macha said. "When you only use one guy in the pen, everybody else should be ready to go for tomorrow's game. If you have to go back into that bullpen, you'll have guys going back-to-back days. That's the biggest part."

There was a sense of relief in the Oakland clubhouse.

"It was a little disappointing yesterday," said Bobby Crosby, who drove in the first two Oakland runs. "When you're in a doubleheader, you at least want to take one. To come out and do what we did today made it a little bit better."

After getting only nine hits in the doubleheader, Oakland had 13 on Saturday night.

"I'll have to look at it so we don't do the nine-hits-in-two games ever again," Macha said. "We had some patient at-bats against Mark (Redman) and a couple big hits off of (Andrew) Cisco. It was nice to see the guys going the other way. Perhaps we had a little better approach."

With the game tied 2-2, Oakland scored four runs in the seventh inning. After giving up back-to-back singles to Jay Payton and Nick Swisher leading off the seventh, Redman (7-8) threw wildly to first on a sacrifice bunt by Crosby and the go-ahead run scored. The other runners advanced to second and third. Redman was removed from the game for reliever Joel Peralta.

One out later, Jason Kendall hit a sacrifice fly to 4-2. Mark Kotsay added an RBI double and Milton Bradley had a run-scoring single.

"Things got kind of raggedy," Kansas City manager Buddy Bell said. "You can't do that when you're facing a guy like Zito. I thought he was really good tonight. Red (Redman) was pretty good up until (the 7th)."

Redman gave up five runs - two earned - and seven hits in six-plus innings.

Oakland took a 2-0 lead in the second inning on a two-run double by Crosby.

The Royals answered with two runs in the third. Mark Grudzielanek reached on a two-out single, followed by a walk to Mike Sweeney. Mark Teahen followed with an RBI single to left, but Sweeney hobbled into second base. He left with tightness behind his left knee. He was replaced by Esteban German. Emil Brown then lined a double to the fence in left center, scoring German with the tying run. Teahen was thrown out at the plate trying to score from first.

Bell said Sweeney confided in him before the game that he had injured the knee Friday but would give it his best shot. "I'm not sure (of the extent of the injury)," Bell said. "Right now it looks like he's got some sort of strain in the back of the knee."

Mark Ellis homered leading off the ninth for Oakland's seventh run.

Notes: The third-inning walk that Zito issued to Sweeney was the first in five games for an A's starter. ... The A's grounded into three double plays, giving them 122 on the season. They entered the game with the third most in the majors behind Minnesota (122) and Toronto (121). The Royals have turned 150 double plays, the most in the majors ... The attendance of 30,810, on George Brett bobblehead night, was the largest in Kansas City since May 20 against St. Louis.

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