Athletics 1, Angels 0
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—With Rich Harden already on the disabled list and Esteban Loaiza joining him on Monday, the Oakland Athletics needed the rest of the rotation to step up. Barry Zito did just that with one of his vintage performances.
Zito shrugged off his 5.93 ERA to combine with two relievers on a six-hitter, and the Athletics beat the Los Angeles Angels 1-0 on Monday night.
“I feel like my motivation right now is to compete with two of our starting pitchers down right now,” Zito said. “We don’t know how long it will be with Harden, so it’s very important that the starters pick up the slack. The team is definitely a motivating factor, so I’ve just got to go out and hold them down.”
Zito (2-2) scattered five singles over 7 2-3 innings, striking out four and walking two. The 2002 Cy Young winner, who surrendered three home runs last Monday in a no-decision at Texas, allowed only one runner as far as third base.
“He had good stuff his last start, too, but just got a couple of balls up,” catcher Jason Kendall said. “Tonight he worked both sides of the plate with his fastball. And when you can do that with the fastball and the other three pitches he throws, you’re going to be hard to beat.”
In the eighth, Chone Figgins singled with one out, Orlando Cabrera walked, and Garret Anderson followed with a towering drive that Jay Payton caught leaning against the short fence in the right field corner to take a three-run homer away from the Angels’ career RBI leader.
“Whenever stuff like that happens, I just watch the outfielder,” Zito said. “Jay had a bead on it, and I was just hoping that no fans interfered with him. When you see a wall out there that low, you always think about that happening. But apparently, there were some A’s fans out there and they were probably ready to beat up whoever was going to try to mess it up.”
Huston Street, last year’s AL Rookie of the Year, was cleared by Oakland’s medical staff to pitch after missing 11 games with a strained right pectoral muscle. But manager Ken Macha decided to hold his primary closer back another day.
“I wasn’t going to bring him into a 1-0 game the first time back,” Macha said. “There was a lot of drama in that game. It wasn’t for the faint of heart.”
“I hit it good,” Salmon said. “I didn’t know if it was going to clear the wall. That cool air out there just knocks things down, but we’ve got to live with that here early in the year. I mean, look at Garret’s ball. I thought he crushed that ball.”
That was enough for Zito, who helped pitch the A’s to their fourth straight victory and third shutout of the season.
“He’s got a great changeup and he’s still got enough on the fastball to make you respect it,” Salmon said. “And that curveball. You’re just not going to put together a string of hits off guys who have good command of their off-speed pitches.”
Figgins, who came in 3-for-28 lifetime against Zito, was scheduled to sit for the first time this season. But center fielder Darin Erstad was a late scratch because of irritation in his right ankle, and Figgins moved from third base to center. He went 2-for-4.
Figgins led off the first inning with a single and stole second for his eighth steal in as many attempts. But he was thrown out for the first time in the fifth by Kendall, who has gunned down eight of 14 so far this season after going just 18-for-119 last year.
“I went home and worked in the offseason with my old man and just had to slow everything down, slow my feet down,” Kendall said. “More than anything, it’s just footwork and realizing that you can’t throw everybody out and try to make the same throw every time.”
Opponents’ No. 3 hitters are 0-for-17 against Zito. Anderson was 0-for-4. … LHP Brad Halsey, who has a 1.42 ERA in nine relief appearances, will start Tuesday for Oakland in place of Harden—who was placed on the DL Saturday and is out for three to six weeks with a lower back strain. … The Athletics have played 25 games, and have yet to give up a run in the seventh inning. … Four A’s pitchers had saves while Street was sidelined. … A’s RF Milton Bradley missed his fifth straight game because of a right knee strain and a sore right hip.