Friday, September 20, 2002
Athletics nudge Angels out of first
The Associated Press
OAKLAND, Calif. The Oakland Athletics put up another win, then pulled out their cowboy hats to head to a country concert.
Just another reminder how relaxed this group really is even after one of their biggest games of the season.
It will be more enjoyable, starter Tim Hudson said of the show, smiling after the A's broke a tie for first in the AL West by defeating the Anaheim Angels 5-3 Thursday.
Terrence Long hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the sixth inning and the A's, who won the season series 11-9, reduced their magic number for clinching the division to eight. If the teams tie for first, Oakland would win the division based on head-to-head record. The Angels, who lead the wild-card race by 6 1/2 games, would have held the tiebreaker based on division record if they had won the game.
Is Oakland manager Art Howe going to miss these stressful showdowns with Anaheim?
Do you miss a toothache? he said.
Hudson (15-9) allowed three runs in 7 1-3 innings to win his eighth straight decision as the A's won for the fifth time in seven games.
Long drove a 1-1 pitch from reliever Brendan Donnelly into the bleachers in right-center field in the sixth to also score David Justice, who singled with one out in the inning off Kevin Appier (14-11).
I haven't had much luck lately, said Long, who entered batting .237. I was rushing the ball and swinging at a lot of pitches out of the zone. That has cost me a lot this year. But that's done and I'm trying to build for the playoffs.
For two teams with a history of playing close games, there was sure to be some drama left for their final meeting of the season, which concluded a crucial four-game series here.
Thirteen of the final 17 games between the teams this season were decided by one or two runs.
Every game is huge. We're in a pennant race, Donnelly said. This is what we want. Hopefully we'll see them again.
Ramon Hernandez drove in two runs for the A's a day after sitting out to rest a sore wrist and Billy Koch worked the ninth for his 41st save in 47 chances.
Koch pitched for the fifth straight day, but assured Howe before the game his arm was fine and he wanted to play.
I'm available because it's my job, he said. I feel great, I'm healthy. I made a point to stick my head in there and tell him 'I told you I was all right.'
Koch amazes his teammates with such durability.
I think he sold his soul to the devil to be able to come back and pitch every day like he does, Hudson said.
Anaheim scored twice in the sixth off Hudson to tie the game at 3. On Wednesday night, Oakland hit four home runs to get ace Barry Zito his AL-leading 22nd win without being at his best.
Hudson, who shut out Seattle last Saturday, left to a standing ovation when relieved by Mike Venafro in the eighth. Hudson allowed six hits and struck out five.
I knew our teams match up well, and these games could have gone either way, Anaheim manager Mike Scioscia said. We've just played them eight games and we played them as evenly as you can play a team. ... Occasionally you're going to hit bumps in the road, but the overall position we're in gives us confidence we're going to rebound.
Hudson battled through a couple of jams, but couldn't escape one in the sixth. With Oakland leading 3-1, he gave up a leadoff double to Darin Erstad and a one-out walk to Garret Anderson. Scott Spiezio then singled to score Erstad and Brad Fullmer drove in Anderson with a sacrifice fly.
After an easy first inning when he retired the side, Hudson allowed a run in the second on Troy Glaus' sacrifice fly.
Hudson pitched a 1-2-3 third and fourth before giving up back-to-back singles to Glaus and Fullmer in the fifth. Hudson then got Bengie Molina to fly out and Adam Kennedy lined out to right. Hudson threw two strikes to leadoff hitter David Eckstein and then blew a 95 mph fastball past him for a strikeout to get through the inning unscathed.
He went 1-2-3 in the seventh.
Miguel Tejada drove in Oakland's first run with a single in the first inning to score Ray Durham. After Anaheim came back with a run in the top of the second on a sacrifice fly by Glaus, Justice made it 2-1 when he scored on a single by Hernandez.
Notes: Anderson's second-inning double gave him 85 extra-base hits this year to tie the franchise mark set by Glaus in 2000. ... Hudson's last loss was July 24 at Anaheim. ... Koch made his franchise-record 79th appearance of the season, breaking the mark of Buddy Groom set in 1997. ... The A's did not hit a double for a franchise-record eighth straight game.
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