Athletics 2, Angels 1
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—Barry Zito is regaining his Cy Young form just in time, with the postseason less than two weeks away.
“If I’m on my game, I have outings like this one,” Zito said. “But if you’re not confident and try to be too fine, you get behind in the count and guys hit you. It’s not as easy as you think to be confident every time out. It’s not as cut-and-dried. It’s a mental battle.”
Zito (13-12) allowed an unearned run, two hits and two walks in 8 1-3 innings with five strikeouts. The left-hander, who was 23-5 last season, is trying to avoid becoming the first starter to finish with a losing record a year after winning the Cy Young award since Athletics right-hander Bob Welch, who was 12-13 in 1991.
“Anytime you win a Cy Young, you’ve kind of got a bull’s-eye on your back and guys gear up for you,” Anaheim’s Tim Salmon said. “But when Zito’s got that curveball going, it’s such a good pitch that you don’t really know how to hit it and it takes you off everything else. That’s what he’s capable of doing.”
Zito, who threw seven scoreless innings in a no-decision at Anaheim on July 28, left after Garret Anderson’s sacrifice fly in the ninth.
With closer Keith Foulke out because of a sore back, Chad Bradford and Jim Mecir each got one out to finish it. Mecir earned his first save—less than 24 hours after allowing a game-ending, three-run homer to Scott Spiezio in a 6-5 loss.
“This was huge for him,” Zito said. “I told him, `Hey, it’s tough to give up a game-winning homer and go back out there in another pressure situation.’ But I think that’s the best way to cure something like that, so you don’t let it eat at you for many days. He’s one of our main guys, and we have to go to him.”
The Athletics are confident that with an extra day of rest, Foulke will be ready for the start of a three-game series with the Seattle Mariners, who began the day trailing Oakland by 4 1/2 games in the AL West.
“It’s definitely not what I prefer to do—sitting here in the clubhouse and watching the guys go out there and do it without me. But there’s not a whole lot that can be done in this situation,” Foulke said. “But I should be back on Friday and ready to go.”
The Athletics, going for their third division title in four years, reduced their magic number to six. They will play six of their final nine games against Seattle—including three on the road to end the season.
“We’ve given ourselves a nice cushion, but that can slip away quick,” Hatteberg said. “We’ve got six big games left with these guys, and hopefully we’ll start taking it to them the first night. We would love to clinch it as soon as possible. That way you can get guys some rest. … But we’ve got a long way to go before that. We’re all expecting a series from them. “
The Athletics took a 2-0 lead in the second on doubles by Miguel Tejada, Hatteberg and McMillon, who sprained the ring finger on his left hand on a headfirst slide into second and was replaced in left field by Terrence Long. Manager Ken Macha said McMillon should be fine by Friday.
Scot Shields (4-6) allowed two runs and four hits—all doubles—over eight innings and retired 19 of his last 20 batters.
Winning the World Series paid off at the box office for the Angels, who broke the franchise record for home attendance despite their 72-81 record. The crowd of 32,503 put them at 2,827,494 and eclipsed the mark of 2,807,360, setin 1982 when they won the AL West.
The Angels have sold enough tickets for their six remaining home dates to guarantee reaching 3 million. … No Oakland outfielder recorded a putout until Salmon flied to left for the first out in the seventh. … Oakland won the season series 12-8. It’s the fourth straight year the Angels lost the season series. … Anderson’s single was his 195th hit, tying a career best. Five more hits will make him only the third Angels player to reach 200 in a season. Darin Erstad led the majors with 240 hits three years ago, and AlexJohnson had 202 in 1970.