Athletics 5, Mariners 2
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Barry Zito got hit hard again—only this time, nearly all of the hits were soft ones.
After a lengthy stretch of bad innings and bad luck, Zito (8-5) finally got back on track with just his second victory in nine starts. The AL Cy Young winner blew a six-run lead last Sunday while allowing 10 hits to the San Francisco Giants—but nine of the Mariners’ hits were singles.
“I was throwing strikes more consistently, and they noticed and started hacking,” Zito said. “I felt good, and my pitch count was low. I gave up a lot of singles, and a lot of times you can’t defend against that. I kept them away from any big innings.”
It’s a bit odd to hear talk about defensive pitching from Zito, who regularly blows away the opposition with his vicious curveball and fastball. But the left-hander was quietly effective against the Mariners, who pounded the A’s 13-0 Wednesday.
“Even without his best stuff, Zito is still a pretty good pitcher,” said Bret Boone, who drove in a run for Seattle. “He gets away with it because he hits his spots so well. He’s always tough on me. He’s not one of my favorite guys to face.”
In 7 1-3 innings, Zito struck out five and didn’t walk a batter. He left to a standing ovation after allowing three hits and a run in the eighth.
Five players drove in a run as Oakland salvaged a four-game split of the AL West series with the division leaders. The A’s are six games behind the Mariners.
“We’ve still got a long way to go, but if we’d lost today, it would have been a longer way to go,” Oakland manager Ken Macha said. “This was a good split. We should feel we can play with these guys.”
Edgar Martinez hit his 17th homer of the season for the Mariners, but he was the only runner to reach third base against Zito until the eighth. Martinez’s fourth-inning homer hit the screen on the foul pole in right field, a few feet above the wall.
Ryan Franklin (6-7) lost his third straight start, allowing a season-high 10 hits in 5 1-3 innings. As usual, he was hurt by poor run support: Seattle scored just eight total runs during Franklin’s first six losses this season.
“I didn’t get ahead of hitters like I can,” Franklin said. “Three broken bats went down as hits. To me, that’s good hitting.”
In the fifth inning, Seattle allowed its first unearned run in 33 games when third baseman Jeff Cirillo’s flub on Ramon Hernandez’s grounder set up Billy McMillon’s RBI single and Frank Menechino’s sacrifice fly.
The Mariners hadn’t allowed an unearned run since May 27. Seattle, which leads the majors in fielding percentage, made two errors.
“To come out of here without them gaining ground, we’ll take that,” Seattle manager Bob Melvin said. “We didn’t play our best defense today, but that’s not a reflection of the way we’ve been playing all year.”
“Especially when we’re not swinging the bats, to split the series is good for us,” Long said. “It hasn’t been going our way lately, but we finally got some good hits at the right time today.”
The A’s played the game under protest after umpires ruled Eric Byrnes out on an inning-ending grounder in the fourth. The ball initially was ruled foul, and Byrnes stopped running hard to first base while Greg Colbrunn picked it up and touched the base.
After a five-minute conference featuring emphatic yells and gestures from mild-mannered A’s manager Ken Macha, umpires decided the ball was fair, andByrnes was out. Oakland had two runners on base at the time.
Byrnes went 1-for-5, with an eighth-inning double when three Mariners lost his pop fly in the sun. He was 2-for-16 in four games against the Mariners after hitting for the cycle and going 5-for-5 last Sunday against San Francisco. … OF Jermaine Dye (sore knee) and 3B Eric Chavez (bruised foot) both sat out for Oakland. Both could return Friday against Anaheim. … 1B John Olerud missed his third straight game for Seattle with a strained righthamstring.