Athletics 3, Mariners 0

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SEATTLE (AP)—Mark Mulder is tough to hit—even tougher when his two-seam fastball is cutting back against right-handed hitters.

Mulder had a season-high 11 strikeouts in seven outstanding innings and Eric Chavez hit a solo home run as the Oakland Athletics beat the Seattle Mariners 3-0 Thursday night.

“Most of my strikeouts were fastballs in,” Mulder said. “It was one of the best ones I’ve had all year and it was coming back real good for me.”

Mulder (13-7) missed a career high by one strikeout. He was strong all night, allowing seven hits—all singles. He walked one before turning it over to Ricardo Rincon in the eighth.

“The two-seamer in was coming back to righties,” Mulder said. “I threw a ton of good ones.”

Billy McMillon had a big two-run single as the A’s scored three times in the seventh. Chavez started it with a first-pitch homer off Gil Meche (10-7), who lost his fourth straight start.

Keith Foulke came in with two outs in the eighth and finished for his 25th save in 29 opportunities. He got Bret Boone on a grounder with two on to end it as the Athletics pulled back within four games of the AL West-leading Mariners.

“With it being head-to-head, it’s big,” Mulder said. “We lose and we’re six games out. We won and we kept it at four. The way we’ve been playing, to have it at four is obviously a good thing.”

Mulder survived a few jams, including a showdown against Carlos Guillen with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh. Guillen took a called third strike on a 3-2 pitch, and Mulder pumped his fist while many in the crowd of 42,730 booed.

Guillen glared at plate umpire Phil Cuzzi and walked to his position in the field.

“When you establish a low zone, it’s tough to deal with a high one, especially in the situation where Carlos gets called out,” Seattle manager Bob Melvin said.

Mulder and Meche dueled through six innings, but things turned when Chavez lined the first pitch of the seventh into the stands in right for his 19th homer.

“I love it when two guys are getting after it, throwing up zeros. It’s a lot of fun,” Mulder said. “You had the feeling a homer was going to do something. Guys weren’t stringing together hits.”

Sure enough, Chavez sent the ball sailing.

“I was looking for a fastball, and it turned out to be a real big inning,” Chavez said.

Meche faced three more batters, getting Ramon Hernandez on a comebacker to the mound before walking Scott Hatteberg and Terrence Long. That’s when Melvin called for reliever Jeff Nelson.

Mark Ellis singled, loading the bases, and McMillon singled to center to score Hatteberg and Long.

Meche worked 6 1-3 innings, allowing three runs on three hits with four walks and three strikeouts. Fans stood and cheered for Meche, but he clearly was frustrated by another strong effort that resulted in a loss.

“As soon as I gave up the home run, I got too aggravated,” Meche said. “Next thing you know, I walked two guys and got taken out.”

In the fourth, the Mariners had a runner at third with no outs after singles by Bret Boone and Edgar Martinez. Mulder recovered, though, getting John Olerud and Mike Cameron on called strikeouts before Randy Winn grounded into a force.

“We have to try and score one there,” Melvin said. “You can think that way against Mulder, but he can get out of jams because he has such goodstuff.”


Seattle hitting coach Lamar Johnson was tossed by Cuzzi in the eighth after rushing out to challenge a called strike on Bret Boone. … First base umpire Jerry Crawford left midway through the game because of a headache. … Seattle INF Willie Bloomquist played all nine innings at third, his 11th straight start. … Despite a sixth-inning triple, Oakland’s Eric Byrnes is 2-for-20 since the All-Star break. … It was Chavez’s fifth homer of the year against the Mariners. … Seattle RHP Arthur Rhodes, who faced three batters in the eighth, left with a sprained right ankle. … The Mariners have been shutout five times.

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