OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)—Barry Zito is so sure he’ll still be with Oakland after next week’s trade deadline that even when general manager Billy Beane asked him for a minute after the game he wasn’t fazed a bit.
“I think he was going to yank my chain but then he decided not to,” Zito said. “I wouldn’t have been surprised if he did. But I don’t think I would have taken him seriously.”
Zito settled down after giving up a first-inning grand slam and Jay Payton drove in three runs to move the Athletics back into first place in the AL West with a 7-4 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday.
Zito, who is eligible for free agency at the end of the season, has been mentioned in potential trade talks all season and pitched under the close watch of scouts from around the majors. But Beane said he isn’t planning any major moves and expects Zito to stick around.
“Rumors are just that—rumors,” Beane said. “It’s part of this time of year.”
The A’s had spent 43 days with at least a share of first place before falling a half-game behind the Los Angeles Angels following a 4-3 loss to Toronto on Friday night. Oakland quickly moved back in front by a half-game with its win and the Angels’ 7-6 loss in Boston.
Oakland fell behind 4-0 just four batters into the game as the first three Blue Jays reached against Zito before Troy Glaus hit his first grand slam in nearly four years.
“He’s been Mr. Ace since he’s been here,” Payton said. “Tonight was a prime example. He got down and just went out and gave us a chance to chip away at them and get the win. He was phenomenal.”
Payton hit an RBI single in the fourth and put the A’s ahead with his two-run single in the fifth. Milton Bradley added three hits and two RBIs, and Mark Kotsay had two hits, two runs and an RBI for Oakland.
Zito won his 97th career game with Oakland, allowing four runs and eight hits in 6 2-3 innings. The fans chanted “Zi-to! Zi-to!” to urge him on in the seventh inning and gave him a standing ovation after he was replaced by Justin Duchscherer with two outs in the seventh. The chants continued during Duchscherer’s warmup and Zito acknowledged them with a curtain call.
“That was awesome,” Zito said. “I have never seen a curtain call here before. That was pretty special. Maybe they thought it was my last outing here.”
Huston Street pitched the ninth for his 22nd save in 28 chances, ending the game by striking out Rios, who went 0-for-5 with five Ks.
After eight of the first 10 Blue Jays reached base safely, they managed only four hits the rest of the way.
“He was able to shut us down,” Toronto outfielder Reed Johnson said of Zito. “He didn’t roll over. He hung tough. Once they scored a couple of runs, we knew we needed to score more but we couldn’t come up with any.”
Dustin McGowan (1-1), called up before the game to make his start of the season, was given the 4-0 lead before he even took the mound in the bottom of the first, but couldn’t keep it.
He breezed through the first three innings before running into trouble in the fourth. Kotsay walked with one out and scored on Bradley’s double. Frank Thomas and Payton followed with singles to make it 4-2 before McGowan worked out of a bases-loaded jam by getting Marco Scutaro to ground out.
“He pitched good but then everything started to get away,” Toronto manager John Gibbons said. “He cruised through the first three innings.”
Tallet walked Thomas before Payton hit a two-run single up the middle to make it 5-4.
Zito hit Johnson with the second pitch of the game, the AL-leading 15th time Johnson has been hit this season. Zito also hit Lyle Overbay in the third, giving him 13 HBPs this season, tying his own Oakland record. … Glaus has three career grand slams and hit his first since Sept. 29, 2002, for the Angels against Seattle. Glaus has 16 RBIs in his last 10 games. … Wells extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a single in the fourth inning. … Chavez played his 60th consecutive errorless game at third base, breaking Mike Gallego’s Oakland record.