Athletics Move Into First in AL West

Monday, July 26th 2004, 6:11 am
By: News On 6

It didn't take long for the Oakland Athletics to erase the largest lead of the season in the AL West.

The Athletics got another strong outing from their bullpen and some late clutch hitting by Adam Melhuse and Erubiel Durazo to beat the Texas Rangers 7-6 Thursday night.

Oakland moved into first place in the AL West for the first time since July 6. Just last Friday, Texas beat Oakland to take a 4 1/2-game lead in the division.

The Athletics, who have made a habit of second-half surges in recent years, have reclaimed first place by winning six straight while the Rangers have lost three in a row and five of six. Oakland also improved to 7-3 against Texas this season.

Five A's relievers allowed one run in 6 2-3 innings. Before Octavio Dotel gave up an RBI double in the ninth, Oakland's bullpen had thrown 20 scoreless innings.

Justin Duchscherer went 1 2-3 innings, then left when his back tightened up. Chris Hammond, Jim Mecir and Chad Bradford (5-4) combined to hold Texas until the offense regained the lead on Melhuse's RBI single in the eighth and got a sacrifice fly by Durazo in the ninth.

``The bullpen really came through,'' said Oakland's Mark McLemore, who drove in three runs and hit his first homer since May 23, 2003. ``Everyone who came in did what they wanted to do.''

Elsewhere in the AL, it was Baltimore 9, New York 1; Detroit 3, Chicago 2; Tampa Bay 2, Kansas City 0; and Seattle 6, Anaheim 5 in 13 innings.

Dotel struck out David Dellucci looking with the tying run on second in the ninth inning for his seventh save since joining the A's from Houston.

It was a great way for Oakland to open a four-game series against the team that's led the division for nearly all the last month. The Rangers aren't panicking.

``It's still July, as far as I'm concerned, and there's no need to be discouraged,'' Rangers shortstop Michael Young said. ``We've gone through some rough stretches this year and we've bounced back from every one of these and gotten better. This won't be any different.''

The A's went ahead in the eighth when Durazo doubled off Carlos Almanzar (7-2), then, after a 32-minute rain delay, scored on Melhuse's bloop single into short center field.

Mariners 6, Angels 5, 13 innings

At Anaheim, Calif., Ichiro Suzuki had a career-high five hits and scored the winning run on Bret Boone's single in the 13th inning to snap Seattle's club-record 15-game road losing streak.

Suzuki, who extended his hitting streak to 21 games, doubled against rookie Kevin Gregg (3-1) in the 13th and scored on Boone's two-out single.

Bengie Molina tied it in the ninth with a two-run homer off closer Eddie Guardado.

Bobby Madritsch (2-0) allowed four hits over four scoreless innings in his third big-league appearance for the win.

Orioles 9, Yankees 1

At New York, Sidney Ponson pitched a four-hitter for his third straight win and Javy Lopez homered for Baltimore.

Melvin Mora drove in four runs, Lopez had three RBIs, and Miguel Tejada hit a pair of RBI singles. Ponson (6-12) struck out five and walked none in his third complete game.

Jose Contreras (8-5) pitched on three days' rest without success. The Orioles roughed him up for seven runs in 6 2-3 innings.

Tigers 3, White Sox 2

At Detroit, Jason Johnson allowed three hits in six innings, handing Chicago its fifth straight loss.

Johnson (8-8) won for the fourth time in five decisions and Ugueth Urbina saved his 16th game.

The White Sox dropped four games behind idle Minnesota in the AL Central.

Detroit catcher Ivan Rodriguez left the game in the third inning with back spasms.

Devil Rays 2, Royals 0

At St. Petersburg, Fla., Rob Bell and three relievers combined on a four-hitter, and Tino Martinez had three hits and an RBI for Tampa Bay.

Bell (4-4) struck out three and walked two in 6 1-3 scoreless innings. Danys Baez threw a perfect ninth for his 20th save.

Devil Rays outscored the Royals 18-3 in sweeping the three-game series. Kansas City has lost seven straight.