“To me, he’s an All-Star,” Saarloos said. “He plays a great center field and he fills the No. 1 or 2 hole in the lineup. Every time he goes out there he amazes me. He’s one of the most underrated players in the game.”
Saarloos (3-4) recovered from Jimmy Rollins’ leadoff homer to win his second consecutive decision. Scott Hatteberg and Dan Johnson each drove in a run for the A’s, who held off Philadelphia with excellent defense.
But all anyone wanted to talk about was Kotsay’s glove work.
“You have to be around him the entire season to appreciate everything he does,” A’s manager Ken Macha said. “A normal center fielder doesn’t get there as quick. That’s why he’s led the planet in assists all these years.”
Kotsay started a relay that cut down one runner at the plate, then made a great catch and doubled off another runner at first.
“I don’t have the same coverage speed as some guys, so it’s instinct and learning how to read the ball off the bat,” he said.
Rollins, playing in his native Oakland this weekend for the first time as a pro, had three hits and two stolen bases, but the Phillies lost for just the third time in 11 games.
“I feel like we gave it to them,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “The guy made a great catch but we ran ourselves out of those innings. This might be as tough a loss as we’ve had all year.”
Saarloos threw a season-high 6 1-3 innings, scattering nine hits and four walks. He did not strike out a batter.
“I wouldn’t say I had great command but I kept hitters off balance a little bit and the defense came through,” Saarloos said. “To do what they did behind me was phenomenal.”
The right-hander allowed baserunners in every inning but was helped by four double plays and some shaky Philadelphia baserunning. He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the fifth by getting Pat Burrell on a flyout.
Rincon has not allowed an earned run in 11 appearances and has stranded 14 of his last 16 inherited runners. His two-inning stint was his longest outing since going 2 1-3 innings for Pittsburgh in 1998. He gave way in the ninth to Duchscherer, who got the final two outs.
Former A’s pitcher Cory Lidle (6-5) was effective, allowing three of his five hits—and both runs—in the fourth. He retired 14 of his final 16 batters. Lidle walked two and struck out two in 7 2-3 innings.
Hatteberg’s RBI single and Johnson’s sacrifice fly in the fourth gave the A’s a 2-1 lead.
The Phillies’ aggressiveness on the bases cost them when Mike Lieberthal was caught off second on Ramon Martinez’s grounder back to Saarloos in the third, and Bobby Abreu was thrown out by Kotsay and the relay throw to Bobby Crosby trying to score from first on Jim Thome’s fourth-inning double off the wall.
“Kotsay is a good outfielder and they handled the cutoff perfectly,” Abreu said. “Because of that they won the game. I’ve got to score on that. The ball was by him and the next thing I know the ball was by me and (Jason) Kendall was waiting for me.”
“I had a good bead on it,” Kotsay said. “One step short and I don’t make that play. I figured the runner on first thought I wouldn’t make the catch so I tried to get my feet stopped as quickly as possible.”
Phillies 3B David Bell was given a day off. … Rollins has 11 career leadoff home runs. … The Phillies hit or ran into double plays in each of the first three innings. … Abreu has reached base safely in 19 consecutive road games. … A’s 1B Erubiel Durazo’s injured left elbow has not responded to treatment. He’s already missed 23 games and no date has been set for his return. … Oakland won its fourth in six games. … A’s closer Huston Street tweaked his hamstring before the game and was not available.