Athletics 5, Expos 4

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Scott Hatteberg’s production with runners in scoring position has been remarkable, even while his batting average dipped to its lowest mark of the season.

Hatteberg hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning, and Eric Byrnes also homered as the Oakland Athletics rallied to beat the Montreal Expos 5-4 on Saturday.

“I don’t consider myself a home run hitter,” Hatteberg said. “I think it’s kind of a byproduct when you’re swinging the bat good. I haven’t had a whole lot of luck.”

Still, when runners are on he always seems to come through. Hatteberg is hitting .576 (15-for-26) with runners in scoring position and less than two outs.

He entered the game batting .180 (11-for-61) in his last 16 games to drop his average to .254. He hit .345 over the first 24 games.

With the A’s trailing 3-2, Mark Ellis was hit by a pitch leading off the eighth. Chris Singleton sacrificed and Byrnes singled, putting runners at the corners.

Hatteberg hit a 1-1 pitch from Luis Ayala (5-2) over the right-field fence for his first homer since May 4 at Yankee Stadium, a drought of 29 games and 121 at-bats. He has four this season.

“There are not a whole lot of feelings like it,” Hatteberg said of hitting a game-winning homer.

Ricardo Rincon (3-3) struck out two in a perfect eighth for the win. Keith Foulke threw 26 pitches in the ninth for his 16th save in 19 chances, allowing an RBI single to Edwards Guzman before retiring Ron Calloway with the bases loaded to end it.

Gold Glove third baseman Eric Chavez made a diving stop of a hard-hit ball by pinch-hitter Jose Vidro, who had to settle for an infield single in the ninth.

“I didn’t like this game one bit,” Expos manager Frank Robinson said. “We couldn’t drive anyone in. We get some runs early and then we can’t do it. We were looking for hits. We’ve been looking for that go-ahead hit all year. We can’t put people away. We need to pad those leads some. We need a hit. I live for a hit.”

Orlando Cabrera doubled twice, singled and scored three runs, and Calloway had two hits to break an 0-for-15 slump.

Montreal starter T.J. Tucker, a reliever making a spot start, retired nine of 10 batters in three innings—allowing only a double to Hatteberg. Tucker, making his first big league start since two in 2000, gave way to Joey Eischen after 38 pitches.

Robinson didn’t consider leaving Tucker in longer.

“I got ahead of guys and I felt strong out there,” Tucker said. “I wanted to pitch further, but he’s the head honcho so I did what I was told to do. I’d pitch again in an instant.”

Byrnes homered leading off the sixth, driving a 3-1 pitch over the wall in left field for his seventh of the season and second in as many days. Byrnes had six career homers coming into the season—he’s surpassed that in 54 games this year.

The A’s, who beat the Expos 8-4 on Friday night, will go for a sweep Sunday.

Aaron Harang was tagged for three runs and eight hits in 3 2-3 innings in his second start of the season after being recalled May 24 from Triple-A Sacramento. The right-hander lost June 8 at Philadelphia when he allowed five runs and four hits in three innings—and this outing wasn’t much better.

Harang, who was 7-2 at Triple-A, allowed a double in each of the first three innings and didn’t have a strikeout.

Harang said he doesn’t consider his recent outings auditions for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, which did belong to John Halama. Manager Ken Macha plans to meet with general manager Billy Beane and pitching coach Rick Peterson on Sunday to determine who will pitch Friday, the next time the A’s need their fifth starter.

Macha said it won’t be his call.

“They’re going to make their decisions and that’s that,” said Halama, who has been in limbo like this before, with Seattle.

Shortstop Miguel Tejada’s second-inning throwing error ended his errorless streak at a career-high 32 games and led to an unearned run for the Expos.

Ellis, whose recent struggles at the plate caused Macha to sit him for a game on this homestand, hit an RBI single in the fifth that scored AdamMelhuse, who doubled with one out.

Notes

… Tucker is the eighth starting pitcher this season for Montreal, which used 13 starters in 2002. The Expos have started a right-hander in 185 straight games. … The Expos are 6-3 since Vladimir Guerrero went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 5 with a herniated disc in his back. … Byrnes, who had a career-best 22-game hitting streak earlier this season, is on a nine-game run. … Cabrera has six multihit efforts in his last 10 games. … Vidro strained his right hamstring in the ninth and was lifted for apinch-runner.

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