OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Ken Macha has been in Oakland long enough to remember the best of Barry Zito—and the Athletics manager is seeing that stuff again from his star left-hander.
Zito (3-3) coolly overcame two errors by his own outfielders, pitching out of a few jams while allowing two walks and striking out three. He had just one win in his previous six starts despite generally strong performances, but the Mariners never got comfortable against the former AL Cy Young winner’s enviable array of pitches.
“Each start, he’s showing some signs of getting back to it,” said Macha, the A’s bench coach during Zito’s 23-5 season in 2002. “The year he won the Cy Young, his command was so good. He was just mowing through people. … He’s showing signs of getting to that point.”
Zito was just 39-36 over the past three seasons, but he’s hoping for a strong summer in the final year of his contract with the A’s. He usually starts his seasons slowly before picking up steam: He has a 5.04 career ERA in April, but this start lowered his career mark in May to 2.80.
“I just have a mentality where I’m going out there and not trying to be too fine, not thinking too much,” Zito said. “I’m just letting my stuff work for me. Just trust my stuff, trust myself.”
Mark Kotsay had two hits and led five Oakland batters who drove in a run against Moyer (1-4) as the 43-year-old struggled through six innings in his worst start of the season. Jose Lopez also made two rally-prolonging errors at second base for Seattle, leading to two unearned runs in the Mariners’ fourth loss in six games.
With five key players on the disabled list after a rash of injuries, the A’s are back above .500 at 20-19 and in a first-place tie with Texas in the AL West.
“We’ve still got a way to go to get healed up,” said Macha, whose club is missing outfielder Milton Bradley and pitchers Rich Harden, Esteban Loaiza, Justin Duchscherer and Jay Witasick. “Hopefully we start getting guys back in there.”
Moyer allowed 11 hits, five earned runs and three walks—all season highs— while failing to make a quality start for just the second time all season. He has a 6.17 ERA in two starts against Oakland this season, but a 3.11 mark against the rest of the AL.
Left fielder Jay Payton threw out Raul Ibanez at home plate to end the Mariners’ half of the first inning, and the A’s scored their first run on Moyer’s first three pitches. Jason Kendall’s RBI single followed Kotsay’s leadoff double to the wall on Moyer’s opening toss.
“The first pitch of the game was up, (and) usually they take that pitch as a professional courtesy,” Moyer said. “Some places you don’t pitch well in. I’m pretty comfortable here, though it doesn’t show. … They seem more comfortable at home, and they’re swinging the bats better.”
Oakland added three runs with a second-inning rally that included a run-scoring single by Bobby Kielty, who then advanced on Lopez’s error and scored on Kotsay’s sacrifice fly.
“Their hits came at the right time, and ours didn’t,” Seattle manager Mike Hargrove said. “We get a two-out double in the first, and they get a leadoff double. That’s the way things are.”
The A’s got three more runs in the fifth in a rally highlighted by Nick Swisher’s RBI single and Lopez’s wacky throw into the Seattle dugout while attempting to turn a bases-loaded double play.
Zito escaped a bases-loaded jam in the sixth, forcing Adrian Beltre to ground weakly back to the mound. Beltre, who’s been playing with a strained hamstring, was pulled in the late innings.
But pinch-hitter Jeremy Reed drove in Seattle’s first run in the eighth with a bases-loaded single against reliever Chad Gaudin, and Kenji Johjima added a sacrifice fly. Kiko Calero escaped Gaudin’s mess, and Huston Street finished Oakland’s fifth straight win over Seattle.
“It’s a team we have to be better against, a team in our division,” Reed said. “We’ve struggled against them as long as I’ve been here.”
Willie Bloomquist’s streak of 19 consecutive stolen bases—longest in the majors—ended in the third inning when Zito threw to first as Bloomquist broke for second. Bloomquist hadn’t been caught stealing since May 1 last season— also at the Coliseum.
Ichiro Suzuki extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a sixth-inning single. … Swisher reached base in his 34th straight game. … Zito made his first start since turning 28 last Saturday. … A’s DH Frank Thomas went 0-for-2 with two walks in his return to the lineup after missing four games with a strained right quadriceps.