Zito's first win in eight starts puts A's in wild-card leadPosted: Wednesday August 13, 2003 1:41 AM
Updated: Wednesday August 13, 2003 2:02 AM
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- The Red Sox had two runners on base, nobody out and their three toughest hitters coming up. Oakland had a shaky two-run lead and rusty closer Keith Foulke on the mound.
It was no contest: The Athletics' pitching staff shut down Boston's offensive machine yet again.
Barry Zito pitched into the sixth inning for his first win since July 3, and Foulke combined with Chad Bradford on 2 1/3 exceptional relief innings as the A's pushed ahead of Boston in the AL wild card race, beating the Red Sox 5-3 Tuesday night.
When manager Ken Macha handed the ball to Foulke in the eighth, he had one instruction: "Just try to minimize the damage."
"To get out of there with zero runs is borderline miraculous," Macha said. "We probably had three saves tonight. I can't say enough about the job those two guys did out of the bullpen."
Bradford escaped a two-on, no-outs jam in the sixth, getting Ramirez on a fly and battling Kevin Millar before an inning-ending double play.
The A's hung on for their 11th win in 13 games at the Coliseum -- and Foulke, in one of the best performances of his outstanding first season with Oakland, pitched the final two innings for his 29th save in 33 chances.
"He was unshakable tonight," Zito said of Foulke. "He was better than any closer I've really seen in that situation. That was pretty amazing what he did."
Foulke had pitched just once in the previous 10 days, but he had no problem getting his groove back. He retired all six hitters he faced.
"That was one of the harder ones," Foulke said of the save situation. "You want to get three outs without them scoring, but realistically, that's not going to happen usually."
Zito (9-10) ended his five-game losing streak and six weeks of frustration with a strong beginning and a shaky finish against baseball's most prolific lineup. The Cy Young winner allowed six hits and three runs while laboring through 101 pitches in just 5 1/3 innings.
With their second straight win in a key four-game series, the A's (69-50) pulled one game ahead of the Red Sox (68-51) atop the wild card chase, though both second-place clubs are more focused on their tight division races. Oakland has been nipping at Boston's heels for six weeks, but hadn't pulled ahead until this head-to-head matchup.
"I think it's a boost to our team," Zito said. "We know for sure now that we've got what it takes to be a playoff team. These two games have done a lot for us."
Jason Varitek drove home Boston's first runs of the series with a three-run double in the fifth, and Johnny Damon had three hits as the Red Sox lost for the fifth time in six games. The A's have held powerful Boston to three runs and 10 hits in the first two games of the series.
Damon was on second base as Boston's rally fizzled in the eighth.
"It was frustrating," he said. "Mueller laid off some unbelievably tempting pitches, Nomar hit that ball hard, and Manny's got hit pretty well, too. You've got to give their bullpen credit. They got the job done."
What's more, Boston outfielder Trot Nixon and manager Grady Little were ejected in the seventh inning. Nixon was tossed for arguing a called third strike, and plate umpire Dan Iassogna ejected Little after the manager argued Nixon's dismissal.
"I don't think Trot said enough to be ejected," Little said. "I had barely got out there, and I was gone, too."
Zito faced the minimum 13 batters through the first 4 1/3 innings before Boston's rally in the fifth.
John Burkett (9-6) had just one rocky inning, but still got just his third loss in more than two months. Burkett allowed seven hits -- five in the first -- and struck out three.
Jose Guillen started Oakland's first-inning rally with a one-out single, and Chavez hit his 23rd homer of the season to right. After Erubiel Durazo doubled and scored on Ramon Hernandez's single, Long hit his second homer in two days.
Burkett immediately settled down, retiring Oakland's next 12 hitters.
After Millar walked in the fifth, Gabe Kapler lined a two-out double off the top of the left-field wall -- Boston's first hit out of the infield in the series. Todd Walker drew a walk, and Varitek cleared the bases with a drive off the left-field wall.
Notes: 1B David McCarty, picked up by Boston last week after the A's designated him for assignment, got his first start with the Red Sox. He went 0-for-2. ... While tracking down Guillen's double in the fifth, Damon slipped and fell on the brown patches of the Coliseum outfield caused by the bleachers placed on the field for Oakland Raiders games. ... Oakland won for the 15th time in 22 games.